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Empowering women through education at the Life College of Learning

This Women’s Month, Life Healthcare is highlighting the need to support and empower women through education.

National Women’s Month, August 2017

This Women’s Month, Life Healthcare, one of South Africa’s leading healthcare companies, is highlighting the need to support and empower women through education.

“Caring for people is Life Healthcare’s business and passion. Through the Life College of Learning, we are able to develop and empower many South African women as they complete the various nursing and health sciences courses on offer,” says Dr Sharon Vasuthevan, Group Nursing and Quality Executive at Life Healthcare.

Women are the cornerstones of Life Healthcare’s operations, where employees are predominantly female nurses. Eighty-three percent of Life Healthcare’s employees and 99% of Life College of Learning students are female, and in this context, Life College of Learning programmes have proven to be strategically important not only to skills and leadership training, but also to the success and solid reputation of the Life Healthcare Group itself.

Life College of Learning has been registered as a Private Higher Education Institution with the Department of Higher Education and Training since 2008, and implements a multi-learning-centre model. This model enables the college to offer relational, practice-based nursing to more than 2,000 students annually who study through seven College Learning Centres situated in four provinces (Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KZN and Gauteng).

In South Africa, only 28% of senior management positions are held by women. While this percentage is higher than it was last year, the percentage of women business leaders has not changed significantly since the research began 13 years ago, when this figure was 26%.

“Our business model ensures that through the education of our female employees, we retain and develop nursing staff while ensuring they have access to career development opportunities. This approach then creates a large pool of competent nurses,”, adds Dr Vasuthevan.

The college has also contributed to the development and empowerment of developing and empowering many of the country’s women, who are helping alleviate the national healthcare skills shortage.

“The fundamental role of the Life College of Learning is to produce world-class, quality nursing graduates who will add value to our industry and business. We believe that by living the values of the college, the lives of the women enrolled in the various learning centres are enriched - both in their personal lives and in their careers as nursing professionals,” says Dr Vasuthevan.

While nursing and health sciences remain the core focus of the programmes, Life College of Learning offers life skills workshops that cover a range of topics including managing finances, time management and stress management. There are also a number of related activities throughout the year, such as career days and community involvement projects (CIPs), which assist the students to make informed career choices.

“Ultimately, the impact of the Life College of Learning extends far beyond the lives of our students. In fact, the primary purpose of many of our CIP projects is to support communities in a constructive way, so that there is meaningful and sustainable upliftment in the areas within which we co-exist.”

Not only do neighbouring communities benefit, but also registered nurses are immediately exposed to leadership experience as team leaders in various units within the Life Healthcare hospitals. In addition, opportunities for career advancement are available in positions such as unit managers, clinical training specialists and specialist nurses.

Dr Vasuthevan’s advice for those women looking to pursue a nursing career is to complete a diploma or degree in nursing.

“There are a number of options one can consider to become a registered nurse. School leavers can start in a college and follow a diploma programme in nursing, or attend a university and obtain a degree in nursing. Both options lead to registration as a nurse. The advantage of the degree is that it allows one to pursue an academic career which can ultimately lead to a PhD in nursing.”

“Once someone has qualified as a nurse, there are development opportunities by means of further studies, and this person could become a specialist nurse both in clinical and or non-clinical areas. Some of these specialist areas include critical care, operating theatre nursing, primary healthcare, occupational healthcare, education and management.

“Tremendous leadership opportunities exist for nurses. Nurses just have to be open to the opportunities during their day-to-day work,” concludes Dr Vasuthevan.

1. Grant Thornton. International Business Report: Women in Business. (March 2017).