Nursing bleeds as officials fumble

Lauren O’Connor-May

Some nursing colleges and students have been left out in the cold after the South African Nursing Council (SANC) instructed colleges to upgrade the final level of nursing qualifications in South Africa from diplomas to degrees. Before this, a Bachelor of Technology (BTech) in nursing was only available at universities.

The change is to keep nursing education in line with the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) Act, says Thandi Manganye, SANC’s acting registrar and chief executive officer.

However, the upgrade has caused a ripple effect that left many colleges unable to enrol new students and many students frustrated by the delay in their education.

One matriculant, who did not want to be named, wrote to the Northern News of her disappointment at not being able to pursue a nursing career immediately after finishing school as she had hoped.

“I am given to understand that due to a new curriculum change, the authorities have stopped the old modules and have not implemented the new changes. This leaves no colleges with approval to take new students.”

“I made my application nearly two years ago, in anticipation of an intake in January 2016,” she said.

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“Now I am left sitting at home because no schools are taking any new nursing student intakes, as they are still awaiting the governing body’s approval to start. I think this is unfair. This delay in not giving accreditation countrywide to colleges leaves us in a predicament. I have been told that no new nursing students have been taken countrywide. That’s a lot of matriculants sitting at home.”

Ms Manganye said: “It is not true that the council stopped the old qualifications and has not implemented the new qualifications.”

She said the upgrade meant changes to the programmes and curricula needed to be accredited by the SANC, for professional purposes, and the Council on Higher Education (CHE), for academic purposes.

“Therefore, nursing education institutions that have not adhered to set criteria are currently on a phase-out period of the legacy qualifications, with a teach-out period of two years for various programmes,” she said.

“Legacy” qualifications refer to the original programmes or curricula that are being phased out.

Ms Manganye said nursing colleges had been duly informed through multiple circulars, cross-country road shows, stakeholder meetings and at nursing conferences. The information had also been widely posted on websites and social media and through faxes and emails.

“Nursing education institutions have a primary responsibility that curriculum development is done in earnest to ensure that there is no gap in education and training of a nurse, yet the primary function of the nursing council is to evaluate programmes submitted by nursing education institutions, therefore the nursing council does not prepare curricula for institutions to educate and train nurses,” she said.

But the Nursing Education Association and colleges say the process of getting accreditation has caused the delay in new enrolments and this, in turn, is hurting the whole health sector.

The association’s Dr Nelouise Geyer said many programmes were still awaiting accreditation.

“While there are quite a few institutions that have their new programmes well progressed in the accreditation process, the waiting time for CHE to do inspections at the nursing education institutions is very long, with some institutions waiting for seven and more months, before an accreditation visit can be done. The site visit is necessary to finalise the accreditation with CHE.”

Toy Vermaak, Netcare’s education manager, said: “At present, private nursing education institutions are awaiting confirmation from the SANC and CHE regarding programme accreditation. Given that application for programmes was in December 2014, and uploaded to CHE in July 2015, this confirmation was fully expected in time for the January 2016 intake of students.

“As a result, individuals who had, for example, been accepted for basic nursing programmes, therefore find themselves in the unenviable position that they have not been able to commence their studies at the date that was originally set and, at this stage, also cannot be given a date for when they will be able to commence their studies.”

Annemie de Wet, the manager of Emmanuel Nursing School, said: “The effect on private colleges is enormous, as there are no intakes, and thus no money. And well-qualified nursing tutors have to be retrenched or have to work without pay, due to the teaching-out period of legacy qualifications.

“The effect on facilities, hospitals and old-age homes, is severe, as there are very few students to help, and every six months this number dwindles.”

The only available junior nursing enrolment spaces are in the four-year nursing programme at public colleges, which are scheduled to have their last intake for legacy qualifications in January 2018, or through the four-year degree offered at universities.

Zolani Zenzile, speaking on behalf of the provincial Health Department’s nursing colleges said: “The diploma programme is being phased out because of the BTech programme that commenced in January 2014. The college is currently admitting students for the BTech degree programme for those students who are meeting the admission criteria.”

* Northern News first contacted CHE on Tuesday March 8 to find out why the accreditatition process for colleges is taking so long.

The message was then forwarded, through CHE’s internal communications, to the director, Professor Kethamonie Naidoo.

On Wednesday March 9 Professor Naidoo said: “Kindly provide me with the names of the colleges that have been unable to take in new students because of delays on the part of the CHE and I will be able to check our records.

“There are approximately 150 registered higher education institutions that submit multiple applications for programme accreditation annually and a large number of new providers that wish to become higher education providers also submit programmes for accreditation.”

The Northern News replied that it would not divulge the names of individual colleges and needed a general response.

On Thursday March 10, Professor Naidoo said: “Sorry, I am in full day meetings this week. I will try to get back to you next week.”

When the Northern News asked Professor Naidoo, on Friday March 11, to give an estimation of when the paper could expect a response, Professor Naidoo did not answer.

The Northern News still had not had any response at the time of going to print.