Nurses called to lead health as a basic human right

Friday, May 11, 2018

Nurses are healthcare leaders and must use their voice to ensure health is provided as a basic human right, says the South African Medical Association (SAMA).

This was a message from SAMA ahead of International Nurses Day 2018 to be celebrated on Saturday.

Organised annually by the International Council of Nurses, the International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world on 12 May.

The day celebrates the contribution that nurses make to societies around the world. May 12th is also an important date to all nurses, as it is the anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, who is widely considered the founder of modern nursing.

This year’s International Nurses Day will be celebrated under the theme “A voice to lead – Health is a Human Right”.

In a statement issued on Friday, SAMA chairperson Dr Mzukisi Grootboom encourages all South Africans to acknowledge the massive role nurses play in society.

“Nurses play a critical role in the provision of healthcare in South Africa. They make remarkable contributions to ensuring the health and wellness of patients and often deal with the social determinants of health such as poverty, unemployment and ethnicity. We cannot overstate their importance enough.

“Nurses are often the only health professionals accessible to many people in their lifetime. They are particularly well placed, and are often the most innovative, in reaching populations which are underserved and disadvantaged,” Dr Grootboom said. 

He added that the decisions nurses make multiple times a day in everyday practice can make a vital difference in the efficiency and effectiveness of the entire system.

However, Dr Grootboom noted that despite their importance, the socio-economic welfare of nurses is poor or inadequate in large parts of the world.

“They work in very difficult situations and in many places there is a dire nursing shortage. South Africa has 39.3 nurses per 10 000 population, but a high percentage of them work in the private sector; there are acute shortages in especially rural areas.

“Research has shown that hospitals with a higher ratio of nurses to patients have lower mortality rates, and indicates that lower nurse staffing, increased workload, and unstable nursing unit environments are linked to negative patient outcomes, including falls and medication errors,” Dr Grootboom said.

Improved work environments and reduced ratios of patients to nurses are associated with increased care quality and patient satisfaction, Dr Grootboom said. –