Skip to main content

Nursing gets shot in the arm

Resource type: News

Business Day (South Africa) |

Original Source

Click here to listen to the interview.

Summit TV speaks to Dr Victoria Pinkney-Atkinson about the award of millions of dollars by The Atlantic Philanthropies into South African nursing educational institutions that may change the face of nursing as we know it.

Jane van Renen: Welcome to Health Watch. The shortage of nurses has been one of the major problems facing the South African healthcare system – offering some sort of relief for this crisis international organisation The Atlantic Philanthropies has injected R70million over the next four years into improving nursing education in South Africa. Joining me in the studio tonight to dig deeper into this matter is healthcare consultant Dr Victoria Pinkney-Atkinson. Vicky, you’re also in fact the programme manager for this particular donation – which is obviously wonderful news for South Africa – can you tell us a little bit about your role?

Dr Pinkney-Atkinson: My role has been to work with The Atlantic Philanthropies to select from about 18 applications from universities – and then over the next four years to monitor and work with the universities to achieve the plans they’ve set out. Each university that has won the award will move forward and will implement the plan they’ve put in place.

Jane van Renen: Before we look at these particular universities that have won the donations can you tell us a little bit about the broader impact this particular donation over the next four years should have on nursing in South Africa?

Dr Pinkney-Atkinson: I think in the broadest aspect it will have a wonderfully positive impact – because nurses very seldom get the resources they need and deserve. This is the largest single private donation that has ever been given to nursing education – it’s unheard of and unprecedented. The fact that somebody took this interest has raised the morale and excitement in nursing education…

Jane van Renen: You bring up some interesting points – you’re talking about raising morale, we’re also talking about capacity and resources – in your experience is it just about resources and capacity in South Africa in terms of creating an efficient nursing environment, or is there something more?

Dr Pinkney-Atkinson: Of course there’s always talk about the X and Y factors and the positive and negative factors – it’s always much more than just resources and money and people and all the rest of it, it’s also to make a positive environment. I think that’s hugely important. If people are not happy at work – those hygiene factors – I think it’s really hard to do a good job. Nurses have struggled under huge workloads – particularly in the government sector – and that’s by and large the sector that will be impacted by the donation that’s been given by The Atlantic Philanthropies.

Jane van Renen: Tell us a little bit about how the government will be helped in that sense, and who has been awarded being the four universities?

Dr Pinkney-Atkinson: They are all training institutions – this particular grant was given to universities that have nursing schools. The four winning institutions that got R16 million each over the next four years are the Adelaide Tambo School of Nursing, the Tshwane University of Technology, and the University of Fort Hare. That’s a wonderful exciting venture in East London – a big facility will be built there with the donation and money given by the University of Fort Hare. Next is the University of the Free State, and the final one that got R16million is the University of the Western Cape who are doing extraordinary things producing huge numbers of nurses at graduate level.

Jane van Renen: What did you look for when the varsities sent in their applications? What makes you think that these four will be successful?

Dr Pinkney-Atkinson: We really looked for developmental things, things that would make a real difference – we looked for dreams, for passion, capacity and the need for capacity. Some Universities are pretty well capacitated – not the nursing departments necessarily – but we know that with these four programmes they will make a difference immediately, and it will be lasting. We are sure of that. We went through a very long detailed process of assessing the universities. Plans include for example at the Adelaide Tambo school care to Soshanguve Section 12 and Section 13 where they don’t have healthcare facilities – so this programme will fund training facilities for nurses, but also care for patients in that community. They will be getting primary care facilities, palliative care facilities, education for children and so on – as well as cancer screening. It’s quite incredible. It will increase the number of nurses, and we are really concentrating on graduate nurses – we are looking at people with masters and doctorates.

Jane van Renen: That also helps the universities to attract money from the government when they have the post-graduates…

Dr Pinkney-Atkinson: Absolutely. So it will be a real spin-on effect in terms of subsidies, and it will also spin on to the nursing colleges. There is a huge change coming in nursing which will make nursing education professionalized – there is a statement that says that all nursing should take place at universities in future, so there will be a huge shift in nursing. It’s to prepare for those changes that are coming in the future…

Jane van Renen: South Africa’s Health Minister Barbara Hogan is particularly positive about this saying that it might also help to bring nurses back who left South Africa – do you see this happening, and how soon?

Dr Pinkney-Atkinson: I can’t tell you the numbers obviously, but be we held an award event and I must tell you that the feeling in that room – there was a large number of nurses, and the people were standing on their chairs and cheering. We are going to have a website that will show the new jobs this is going to create, a large number of new jobs in the university sector and related to the project. There was a feeling that this is so exciting – that this is where nursing needs to be going – and some of the people in the room were saying: “We’d love to come and work on one of these projects – put up your website immediately.”

Jane van Renen: Going back to the impact on the state and the state hospitals and the level of the quality of nursing in those hospitals – how will this help to raise the bar in state hospitals where we’ve heard the stories of nurses not caring, not being professional and making mistakes?

Dr Pinkney-Atkinson: That’s a hugely important question. In the short term I don’t believe it will make any difference whatsoever – but we are working towards building and lifting the bar, and training. By having graduate nurses working as trainees – and the professors and people linked with it – we believe that the overall standard will move up. It’s a whole re-scheduling and pulling back from the very sad position nursing got into through neglect I believe. This shows quite the opposite – how valued nurses are. One of the good news stories is that at the University of Fort Hare the nurses are held in such high esteem they call them the “heroes of their university.” They’ve worked under the most tremendously difficult circumstances – they’ve never had a building in which they could work as university. They have donated R40million to new buildings so that’s a whole new building development programme.