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Investing in nursing is a non-negotiable if South Africa wants to safeguard the future provision of its healthcare.

According to the World Health Organization’s State of the Nursing Report, the projected nursing shortages and inequitable nurse distribution, especially in low- and middle- income countries, can be offset and can be addressed by creating at least 6 million new nursing jobs by 2030.   “Investing in nursing creates jobs and drives economic growth. This is something that is without a doubt needed in our own country. It is vital that the government and the private sector partner together to achieve this. With a shared goal of providing quality care and best patient outcomes, investing in nursing is immutable. Nurses play a crucial role in bolstering the local economy and improving on our healthcare system. This makes them indispensable for sustainable development,” says Wharton-Hood.

Wharton-Hood’s comments come as South Africa is set to enter a new healthcare dispensation under the National Health Insurance (NHI) policy, and with the country facing economic challenges and a shortage of nursing skills.

Strengthening the nursing workforce contributes directly to achieving health-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and improving population health. “To achieve this we must consider the opportunities for private healthcare and government to partner and invest in our nurses for the future. This will require open communication with a shared commitment for a stronger nursing workforce that benefits all patients and communities in our country”, he said.

Wharton-Hood explains that we are making good progress with a focused approach to upskilling and developing nurses through education programmes.The company has 26 years’ experience of training nurses through its nursing college which includes seven Learning Centers across the country. “Our Cape Town learning centre has received SA Nursing Council accreditation for the undergraduate programme while our KZN learning centre has conditional accreditation. Whilst we welcome this, we believe progress is slow in allowing us to train more nurses, specifically in postgraduate programmes for specialisation. We are willing and able to increase the number of students we educate but our hands are tied,” he said.

Life Healthcare’s Chief Nurse Officer, Merle Victor states, “Nursing is regarded as a critical, highly respected profession, offering a range of career paths including specialisation, management and education, just as other respected professions offer, for example law and engineering. Specialist nurse roles such as theatre nurses, critical-care, nephrology, maternity, emergency-unit nurses, and many more require that we have undergraduate nurses in the system who wish to progress in their careers and study further to specialise.

In addition to offering training at its nursing college, Life Healthcare is committed to doing what it can internally to upskill its employed nurses. “We have a nursing career pathway programme to support our nurses to grow and develop into management and leadership roles. We also offer continuous development (CPD) courses. Our young nurse leader’s initiative aims to nurture young and upcoming nurse leaders to develop their professional and leadership skills which is crucial for and beneficial to the nursing profession.

“We’re committed to playing our part in investing in, educating and upskilling nurses. We look forward to robust and positive engagement with all industry players to expand South Africa’s nursing capacity”, concludes Victor.