Nursing is a vital resource that helps meet South Africa’s significant healthcare needs. Our country’s brave, innovative nurses help South Africans navigate critical life stages – from birth to the end of life. Nurses played an integral role during the challenges that South Africa faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, working long hours and finding solutions while experts were still navigating the disease.
Choosing the nursing profession is one of the most impactful, rewarding career choices one can make. Briony Berning, National Nursing Education Manager at Life Healthcare shares some facts, figures and inside knowledge about the profession.
1. Nursing is a critical skill. South Africa has approximately 280 000 nurses – one nurse per 213 people. Nursing has been added to South Africa’s critical skills list, and Life Healthcare estimates that the country needs as many 26 000 more nurses to meet growing demand.
2. As a nurse, you’re there to serve. “Directly, or indirectly, we work to find the best outcomes for our patients,” says Briony. “Knowing that our patients will benefit is how we measure our reward at the end of the day.”
3. Nursing is deeply rewarding. “It is so satisfying to see the impact of our nursing care on our patients and their families. This validates the entire reason for our work,” says Briony. She alsogets fulfilment from the growth of the nurses who train with her. “I see students develop from trainees (student nurses) into qualified nurses,” she says. “It makes every minute of our work worthwhile.”
4. Technology is revolutionising the profession. “We’re seeing incredible progress in the care we can provide,” says Briony. “Technology enhances the speed of diagnosis and lets us customise treatment to patients’ needs. It also lightens the admin load, so nurses can provide better care. As nurse educators, we can now facilitate learning beyond the normal confines of bricks and mortar classrooms, bringing experts to our students to benefit their education thanks to e-learning and being able to connect virtually. ”
5. Nurses can choose specialised fields. A postgraduate specialist nursing qualification allows a nurse to work in fields such as critical care, operating theatres, occupational health, maternity units, or emergency units. Entrance requirements for postgraduate nursing programmes is a four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing and midwifery or a three-year diploma in nursing with an advanced diploma in midwifery. Your nearest nursing education institution can guide you regarding the criteria to be eligible to apply for nursing studies. Despite the current nursing education challenges in South Africa, we encourage young South African’s to explore nursing as a profession.
6. The world is your oyster. “Nursing has a common, global language,” says Briony, who like many nurses has worked overseas. “I encourage nurses to work in their home environment after they qualify. This helps consolidate what you’ve learned in a space you’re familiar with. Later in your career, nursing offers opportunities to travel, live and work nationally and internationally.
7. Nurses are part of multi-disciplinary teams. “Nursing is a respected profession in its own right,” says Briony. “We stand alongside our fellow healthcare professionals – doctors, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, dieticians, etc. We each have autonomy in our scope of practice, using our knowledge of anatomy, physiology, pharmacology or disease processes to make judgment calls about our patients.”
8. The time to start planning a nursing career is Grade Nine. “It’s important to choose the right grade 12 subjects,” says Briony. “That starts at the end of Grade Nine. Nursing requires mathematics or maths literacy, life sciences, and we encourage computer literacy. I also encourage prospective nursing applicants to visit their local clinic or hospital, and to participate in job shadowing to experience what it means to be a nurse.”
9. There are three ways to become a nurse. Firstly, you can apply for a one-year Higher Certificate in Nursing, a three-year Diploma in Nursing, or a four-year bachelor’s degree. Private and public nursing colleges offer the higher certificate and the diploma, while universities generally offer the degree programme.
10. Nursing has diverse demographics. While historically, nursing has attracted more females to the profession, nursing suits all genders and ethnicities.
“If I had to make the choice again, I would choose nursing every time,” says Briony. “Because of the sense of purpose it offers, the opportunities I’ve had and the life it has given me. Nursing has taught me that despite the greater issues, as an individual, I can impact the life of one person – my patient. As nurses, we are privileged to share in someone else’s space, from birth till the end of their lives.”