UP and campus health services association commemorate International Nurses Day

Posted on May 18, 2023

The University of Pretoria (UP) recently hosted an event on the Hatfield Campus together with the South African Association of Campus Health Services (SAACHS) to commemorate International Nurses Day. The topic under discussion was in line the International Nurses Day theme which was: “Our nurses, our future”.

The SAACHS is an association of tertiary institutions that provide primary and occupational healthcare on campuses. According to the SAACHS, it strives to foster a liaison between members in the interest of campus healthcare; promote comprehensive primary healthcare using a patient-centred, multidisciplinary approach; make an academic contribution through individual and collective research; and promote cost-effective practice management and service excellence through ongoing evaluation.

“Ignorance, incompetence and illiteracy of the framework of law make us undermine what we are called to do as nurses,” said Bonginkosi Shongwe, Assistant Director of Quality Assurance at the Gauteng Department of Health, who attended the event.

“As nurses, we are illiterate about the information that informs what we do; most of us think we are in the business of giving care, but the real reason is to give dignity to people. If we look at it that way, it will change the trajectory of nursing and our image of nurses.”

UP Acting Director of Student Affairs Kgomotso Legari took to the podium to welcome guests, SAACHS members and nurses from various higher learning institutions across the country. He said the gathering was about breaking the silo mentality among nurses.

“We should start working together so that the wealth of information can come here,” he said. “I am not a nurse, but I know that no nurse was prepared for the COVID-19 pandemic; still, nurses were on the frontline and it is concerning, because this sector lacks resources. It is important to note that the survival of this association and profession depends on you.”

“The dignity of nursing has deteriorated,” said Alidah Kekana, a nurse clinician of UP’s Student Health Services. “I would like to remind people that there are still good nurses out there and we would like to restore the dignity that nursing used to have.”

Professional nurse and founder of the Johannesburg-based Mother & Child Clinic Yolanda Mpilo urged nurses to work together and elevate one another.

“Nurses tend to be unkind to one another, and do not embrace the fact that we are different,” she said. “It is important to reflect on this day and change our behaviour towards each other.”

Dr Anna Sefolosha of SAACHS reminded attendees that while nurses are underappreciated, they are the “heroes and heroines” of the healthcare sector.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses suffered the most,” she said. “They demonstrated leadership in crisis management. The nursing profession was highly visible during this time and utilised a multidisciplinary approach – nurses led the best solutions towards the effective management of COVID-19.”

She added that nurses made sacrifices under difficult conditions to save lives, sometimes at the cost of their own lives and safety.

“We have lost colleagues, peers, mentors, friends and educators,” she said. “On International Nurses Day, it is important that we take time to honour our fallen heroes and heroines; let us remember them with pride as they rolled up their sleeves to prevent mortality and infirmity. Let their spirit live within us.”

- Author Xolani Mathibela

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