Private and public nurses’ frustrations are the same

Molatelo Mphepya and Mikateko Maheso are nurses in the pediatric ward at Tembisa Hospital.

 

As the world celebrated International Nurses Day on 12 May, many nurses across the country had very little to celebrate as they work long hours due to a shortage of staff.

The striking reality is that the country is facing a critical shortage of nurses, which is also a global problem. According to the South African Nursing Council, there are 270 437 nurses registered in South Africa. However, there is a shortage of 44 780 professional nurses and although the stats for this and last year were not available, only 3 595 students had enrolled to study for a nursing degree in 2016.

The Midrand Reporter spoke to a few nurses from the public and the private sector and the one thing they all have in common is the love for the job.

Nare Kobe who has been a nurse for 30 years at Tembisa Hospital said, “What is there to celebrate,” when asked about International Nurses Day. She, like many of her colleagues, has raised concern about inadequate hospital infrastructure and the shortage of nurses.

“We love our work and we do it passionately despite the challenges that we come across,” she said.

“The nurse-patient ratio that we are subjected to is not in line with what it should be. We took an oath and are guided by the nurse’s pledge to fulfil our duties regardless of the circumstances. Some patients do not understand how we work or the pressure we are under and expect first preference.”

Kobe added that Tembisa Hospital used to be able to provide proper care for its patients but the population in the area had increased and the hospital infrastructure and its resources were now strained. “The beds can no longer accommodate the number of people who walk into the hospital to get assistance. The government has introduced a system of appointments to try and reduce the number of queues and to instil order.

“But the public sometimes does not honour their appointments and those who don’t have appointments expect to be assisted first. How do you leave a person with an appointment and is rushing to go back to work, to assist the person who doesn’t have one?”

When asked about the public’s negative perception of nurses in government hospitals, Kobe said, “Some people who walk into the health care facilities do not treat nurses with respect and demand things to be done their way. We treat every patient that walks in like a family member.

“Our duty is to save lives and not kill. There is nothing more painful as seeing a patient you were trying to save lose their life.”

She added that the government was trying its best to improve conditions at the hospital. “Look, there’s new equipment bought for us but there’s no space to put it.”

Suvashni Chetty, is a registered nurse working in the gynaecology and urology ward at Waterfall Netcare Hospital, a private medical facility. She started her career in 2006 at Umhlanga Hospital in Kwazulu-Natal. “I do not know why I chose nursing but I do believe it is a calling,” she said. She also acknowledged that the shortage of nurses and long working hours put a strain on nursing staff.

Suvashni Chetty says being a nurse is her calling.

“We learn to embrace the situation and work around it. Life as a nurse, I would say, has been difficult, but I have huge support from my family since I have started. Your family ends up working around your schedule. We work long hours which is 12-hour shifts and some weekends but we also get days off in-between.”

She added that the advantages of working in the private sector were that they have sufficient consumables and functional equipment to work with.

“Nursing is a huge responsibility and it is not for everyone. You meet different people, you change their lives and you will see people at their worst and best. To be a nurse is one of the most rewarding professions ever.”

Palesa Sithole joined the profession in November last year. She works in Tembisa Hospital’s paediatric ward. She too, admits to the long working hours. “I am learning to adjust to the working conditions,” she said.

“The nurses at the hospital received me well and taught me the role. There is no such thing as rude nurses, we all come here to help people.”

What is your view about nurses? Tweet us @MidrandReporter

  AUTHOR
Lungile Dube

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