History of the Department of Nursing Science


The need for a degree course in nursing was already envisaged from the early 1900’s by the South African Trained Nurses Association. The problem however was to obtain funding for it.

In 1955 the Director of Nursing in the Transvaal Provincial Administration (TPA), Mrs Charlotte Searle, approached UP to start a degree course for basic nursing training. The Principal, Professor CH Rautenbach, and the Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Professor AN Pelzer, agreed to start a 4&12; year BA (Nursing) Degree leading to registration as a general nurse. The Principal also undertook that if the first course was successful, a Senior Lecturer post in Nursing Arts would be created, and as soon as the numbers warranted it that a Professor post would be made available. The first group of 32 students started on 1 February 1956.

Ten years later the Board of the South African Nursing Association (SANA) decided that the 75th year commemoration of the State registration of Nurses in South Africa (1891) needed to be celebrated appropriately. On 18 October 1966 at the SANA Congress in Durban, the announcement of the first Chair in Nursing in South Africa was made namely “The South African Nursing Association Chair in Nursing”.

 This approval included the following:

  • The creation of the Department of Nursing Science 
  • The appointment of a Professor in Nursing namely Professor Charlotte Searle, as well as a senior lecturer in Nursing 
  • The transfer of the BA (Nursing) degree to the Faculty of Medicine and the degree B Curationis (BCur) 
  • Postgraduate degree courses to be instituted.

The financing of this was carried by SANA for a period of ten years with TPA also making a contribution.

The first 36 students started with a 4 year BCur degree leading to registration as a general nurse on 1 February 1967. This group was to complete their degree at the end of 1970, but in January of that year Professor Searle informed them that by extending their course by six months, they could also register as midwives and psychiatric nurses. The first group of BCur students thus completed their degree in 1971.

The first master’s degrees were conferred in 1969, in Nursing Administration and in Nursing Education. The first nursing graduate to obtain a master’s degree in nursing was in 1969, namely Mrs WJ Kotzé. In 1970 three clinical master’s degrees were conferred in Advanced Intensive General Nursing. This was followed by a postbasic degree in Nursing namely BCur Instructionis et Administrare (B Cur I et A). Mrs Kotzé went on to complete the DCur and to succeed Prof Searle in 1975 when last named reached retirement age. Professor Kotzé was succeeded by Professor JGP van Niekerk, one of the first BCur students (1967). Other heads of this Department are Professor NC van Wyk, Professor FM Mulaudzi and the present head, Professor RS Mogale. 

The students did their clinical learning practica at Pretoria General Hospital, later renamed HF Verwoerd Hospital and currently Steve Biko Academic Hospital. The hospital remains the primary site for student clinical learning practica and this has strengthened the relationship and the collaboration between the hospital and both the Department and UP.


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