Nurses feel marginalised, undervalued and overworked in crowded, short-staffed hospitals, the Gauteng legislature nursing summit in Johannesburg heard on Friday.
Officials at the summit reported back to about 1500 nurses on what was being done to improve working conditions and training of nurses.
Nomonde Dlamini, a nurse from the Gauteng department of health, said a snap survey of Johannesburg nurses showed they felt overworked and undervalued.
Two speakers said the growing population and declining numbers in nursing meant nurses could not do their jobs properly.
There is a shortage of 45000 qualified nurses countrywide, the summit heard. This is expected to rise to 46603 by 2016. Training a professional nurse takes three years.
Another speaker said, while absenteeism was a problem, HIV-positive nurses needed a day off to get antiretrovirals. Retired nurse Sandy Schneider outlined steps to be taken to combat problems:
- The province has begun a professional development and training programme, with ethics as a subject. She hoped the training would be compulsory in future;
- A chief nurse officer will be hired to oversee nurses within the next few months;
- Chief nursing directors have been hired, or are being hired, to manage nurses at the province's four academic hospitals;
- To improve nursing, the South African Nursing Council and the Council for Higher Education will accredit nursing qualifications and review college curricula to ensure they are of the necessary standard;
- The province is working on guidelines to regulate the number of nurses needed per hospital, clinic or ward; and
- Gauteng has started a "mending our image" campaign to improve the morale and status of nurses.