Healthcare warning bell sounds as South Africa faces shortage of

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Florence Nightingale is known as the founder of modern nursing

Around the world on 12 May, nurses are revered, honoured, and their role in the healthcare system celebrated as International Nurses’ Day is observed.

While doctors play an instrumental role in the success of the hospital environment, nurses are a vital cog in the healthcare wheel.

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Often unsung and underappreciated, nurses provide over 90% of global healthcare, are crucial to primary healthcare, and most often represent the frontline of patient care.

Their roles are far-reaching, providing patient care and support, educating the public about illnesses and diseases, and even advocating for health interventions.

Overall, the nursing profession has evolved far beyond what it was at conception.

Held annually on 12 May, International Nurses’ Day also serves to honour Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing, on this, the anniversary of her birth.

Nightingale’s principles led to more structured nursing practices worldwide.
More than ever, the Covid-19 pandemic placed the nursing profession in the spotlight both in South Africa and beyond.

It also exposed South Africa’s shortage of professional nurses and highlighted the need for such at both private and public healthcare facilities.

According to South Africa’s 2030 Human Resources for Health strategy, if no substantial action is taken now, by 2025 the country will face a shortage of about 34 000 registered nurses.

Pfizer South Africa medical director Dr Bha Ndungane-Tlakula says, given that there were only 71 707 registered professional nurses in SA in 2019, and that 47% would retire over the next 15 years, solutions to the healthcare shortage must be addressed now to ensure a sustainable future.

‘The shortage of healthcare professionals and its impact on healthcare delivery in the rural parts of South Africa has long been a topic of discussion and, with 32.65% of the population residing in rural areas, we made the decision to partner with innovative nurse-led programmes such as Unjani Clinics Network, to address the shortage,’ adds Ndungane-Tlakula.

Funded through the Pfizer Foundation’s Global Health Innovation Grants Programme, the initiative provides quality, affordable and accessible primary healthcare to under-served communities across the country.

It also aims to empower nurses, create permanent employment, and develop a sustainable clinic model for primary healthcare provision in rural areas in particular.

The lady with the lamp
Florence Nightingale was born on 12 May 1820, in Florence, Italy, and is known to be the creator of modern day nursing.

Better known as ‘The lady with the lamp’ Nightingale was a nurse during the Crimean War, and she also established the St Thomas Hospital and the Nightingale Training School for Nurses in the 1800s.

Her remarkable work in improvising medical care by incorporating sanitation greatly influenced the healthcare system we see today.

During the Victorian Era, nursing was a job that was frowned upon but, despite the social exclusion, Nightingale knew her calling was to tend to the ill and poor.

She was honoured by Queen Victoria for her work and dedication during her time in Crimea.
It is said Nightingale was able to decrease by a third the death rate at the hospital that admitted soldiers.

Nightingale’s teachings are still being put to use in the healthcare system today, and this is why we honour this heroine, as well as those who decided to follow in her footsteps.

 

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