Transforming nursing practice, policy and leadership in South Africa

26 June 2013

Over 100 nursing stakeholders from across the country attended the final symposium of “Research on the State of Nursing (RESON)”, a four-year project within the Centre for Health Policy, held at the Wits School of Public Health on 25 June 2013.

Funded by The Atlantic Philanthropies to the tune of R9-million, the project aimed to develop and strengthen the evidence for improved nursing policy development and practice in South Africa. The project was a significant investment in nursing policy research and yielded over 30 presentations and posters at local and international conferences.

Various papers are planned for publication in local and international journals. The most significant project achievements include: generation of new knowledge on nursing in South Africa; methodological innovation, ranging from the use of reflective diaries to capture the experiences of practising nurses to a large scale cross-sectional survey on agency nursing and moonlighting; capacity building at both formal and informal levels; and providing an independent policy space to discuss and debate nursing, workforce and health system issues, thereby facilitating a broader transformation process in nursing.

The symposium emphasised the research evidence gleaned from research projects, and focused on the centrality of nurses to population health and health system performance and improvements. The five broad themes were: Improving Nursing Practice and Quality of Care; Nursing Research and Policy Influence; Maximising the Health Policy Impact of Research; Building the Next Generation of Nursing Leadership; and Nursing Leadership and Management for Health.

Selected papers dealt with factors influencing job satisfaction of primary health care clinic managers in two SA provinces; the direct and indirect costs of agency nursing in the SA public health sector (2005-2010); using reflective diaries to explore issues facing SA nursing managers in hospitals; nurses’ participation and influence in key nursing policies; and perceptions of male nurses on professional growth and development. The keynote address by Mr Chris Rakuom, the Chief Nursing Officer in the Ministry of Health in Kenya, reminded the delegates of the need for strong leadership, management training for nurses, and research.

“As a policy maker, I like to see that research influences policy and I want to make decisions based on research. Research needs to help us in management. I have been amazed at what was presented at the symposium – there is a galaxy of knowledge in South African nursing. I wish I had these ladies and gentlemen in Kenya, I would make such a difference!”

Responding to his challenge to pull this knowledge base together, the Head of the Wits School of Public Health and project director, Professor Laetitia Rispel, closed the meeting by promising to explore options for a special journal supplement that will bring together a selection of research papers that have emanated from this four-year project.

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