Addressing nursing skills shortages in SA

Posted on 28 September 2016

About 30 years ago Mediclinic realised there was a growing national need to train nurses and they subsequently launched a small-scale training centre in Gauteng.

By the late 90s, there were simply not enough nurses to satisfy industry demand so Mediclinic, with permission from the Nursing Council of South Africa, piloted a training programme that would provide the industry with much-needed qualified Enrolled Nurses and Registered Nurses.

Since then, this small pilot that began with 50 students has grown to a large-scale national higher education initiative that educates about 1 000 nurses annually.

‘Our courses are available country-wide,’ says Avril Stroh, Mediclinic’s Training and Development General Manager. ‘This is particularly useful to our hospitals in outlying areas, where universities or colleges are not close by.’

Growing in popularity

Apart from providing baseline nursing training and qualifications for undergraduates, Mediclinic also places a strong emphasis on encouraging all staff to continue learning throughout their careers.

‘We offer specialisation courses for our nurses who want to train in a specific field such as neonatal care, paediatrics or oncology,’ says Avril. ‘We also offer refresher type courses for nurses who may be out of practise. The emphasis is on practical, hands-on experience.’

Mediclinic’s courses have grown in popularity over the years. Having started with two programmes, there are now over 40 courses for nurses to choose from. ‘These short courses are popular because they enable our nurses to advance or move from one special interest to another,’ explains Stroh. Over 2 000 students enlist for Mediclinic’s short courses annually with a 75-85% pass rate.

Although, Mediclinic is not the only private healthcare or hospital group investing in training, their educational programmes are unique in that they are free. ‘Our students pay only for their prescribed textbooks and receive a monthly stipend while they are studying,’ says Avril. ‘We also offer employment to our graduates and they don’t pay for their uniforms.’

Cream of the crop

These favourable terms put Mediclinic’s courses in high demand. ‘Sometimes our call centre crashes due to the volume of enquiries from potential applicants,’ says Stroh. Mediclinic has received 14 000 to 20 000 applications for their Enrolled Nurse Certificate annually and attracts a high calibre of Grade 12 school leavers. ‘Prospective students are given psychometric tests to ensure they have the correct temperament and personality for nursing care, over and above the minimum required matric results,’ says Ann van Zyl, Mediclinic’s Higher Education and Training Manager.

‘Prospective students are given psychometric tests to ensure they have the correct temperament and personality for nursing care, over and above the minimum required matric results,’ says Ann van Zyl, Mediclinic’s Higher Education and Training Manager.

Mediclinic’s ‘cream of the crop’ students are matched to excellent teachers and trainers and world-class facilities. ‘What really makes us stand out is our exceptional staff complement,’ says Avril.

‘We employ 60 highly qualified educators with the necessary relevant clinical and theoretical expertise. We assess and moderate them annually and ensure that that they remain up to date and in touch with what’s happening in our hospitals.’

Annual audit

Training takes place in one of Mediclinic’s six registered learning centres with three more centres pending registration. But regardless of the learning centre, students are educated according to the same curriculum across the board and they write the same, moderated exams. The learning centres are also audited annually to ensure that teaching instruction remains consistent nationally.

‘These training initiatives have taken great strides to address the nursing skills shortfall that’s been challenging our industry since the 90s,’ says Avril, ‘but we are not resting on our laurels.’ Mediclinic is piloting a two-year course for Emergency Medical Care Technicians with an additional one-year Emergency Care Assistant course in the pipeline. ‘We were asked by ER24 to initiate this due to our exceptional track record,’ says Avril. ‘We are the only institution with accreditation to do this and we are regulated by the Health Professions Council of South Africa.’

Avril attributes much of their success to a focus on developing sound relationships with industry and educational bodies such as the South African Nursing Council, the Health Professions Council of South Africa, the Council on Higher Education, the Department of Higher Education and Training, the South African Qualifications Authority and the Health and Welfare Sector Education and Training Authority (HWSETA).

Mediclinic is awaiting approval for their proposed new nursing qualifications, which will introduce a new category of nurses to South Africa. ‘We want to align with international standards,’ says Avril. In the meantime, however, Mediclinic can proudly claim to have created over 9 000 new nurses and operating assistants for the healthcare industry in South Africa.

Published in Skills