Nurturing the Nursing Profession


With the number of cataract operations that Flying for Life performs on a scheduled Saturday, the Ophthalmologists need all the help they can get to ensure that everything can be achieved before and after the operations. Dr Polla Roux, our volunteer Ophthalmologist, has now trained four nurses from the hospital we operate in in Limpopo as certified ophthalmic assistants. On a recent trip to Venda, Sister Jenny Miles a volunteer Ophthalmic Assistant decided to mentor another two nurses and used her experience to facilitate their learning.

Are Nurses underappreciated?
I think nurses are one of the professions that are at the forefront of the under-valued. They don’t work regular shifts and most of the time they are understaffed. I saw a meme recently that said, “Be thankful for Nurses, they make sure that Doctors don’t kill you”. Nurses are amazing team players. They are constantly serving.

Not enough people are entering nursing
Research shows that hospitals are still understaffed with nurses. Yet, bursaries are offered to study nursing. So could it mean that the government is so desperate for nurses that they would give the bursaries to people who are not passionate about what they are getting themselves into? I mean we can’t talk about nurses and ignore the elephant in the room. The nursing profession has been getting a bad reputation for their rudeness and indifference to patients. Nurses are the ones we mostly have moments of connection with during our stay in hospital, and whether they treat us well or not, will influence our perception on healthcare.

Nurturing the Nursing Profession
Maybe part of the solution to bettering the reputation of South African nurses is to appreciate them more. Maybe it is to enable mentorships for nurses. Those who have been in the industry for longer can guide those who are less experienced. Like every other career, women tackle many roles in their lives. They are wives and mothers, possibly breadwinners, so it’s possible that they could be experiencing other emotional stresses outside the work place that make them lack the morale to do their work with passion and patience towards their patients.

At Flying for Life, we often find that we will fly to a place to achieve one thing, but meet ten other problems that need solving. We fly Ophthalmologists and Ophthalmic assistants to operate on approximately 30 patients each flight. Expertise are available, so why not use them to train others. No matter how small the steps might be, we believe that a little help is better than turning a blind eye. Training, mentoring and appreciating nurses might be a small step, but in years to come, it might just be the change that was needed. 

Story by Katlego Matlou
​Photo by Thandeka Mndebele

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