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The Challenges of Nursing in South Africa

The Challenges of Nursing in South Africa

Marijke Durning | NursingLink

Now that Spain has won and the World Cup is over, this is a good time to look at other aspects of South African life, such as what it’s like to be a nurse in that country. From job satisfaction, working conditions, and a different medical system, nursing in South Africa is a whole other experience.

Risk of Violence

Violence occurs in most places in the world, from NYC to Perth, Australia. But sadly, the risk of violence is ever-present in some parts of South Africa. For example, Cape Town has the dubious honor of having one of the highest crime rates, according to police statistics. Nurses are not immune to crime, particularly if criminals feel that nurses have access to valuable supplies or drugs. When nurses feel unsafe, they won’t stay around.

Illness or Death

HIV and AIDS, as well as other contagious diseases, are significantly more prevalent and more of an issue in South Africa than in the U.S. and Canada. Nurses are not only faced with the enormous task of educating the population for HIV prevention and treating those who have developed AIDS, many nurses are victims of the disease too. The WHO report states that morbidity and mortality are increasing among nurses in Africa.


Migration is commonplace in less developed countries as citizens move from rural to urban areas, trying to better their lives. The same is true for professionals working in esteemed careers like nursing. Nurses in South Africa are more likely to move abroad, seeking better life and career opportunities. They are also likely to seek, and be sought by foreign countries. There are many who feel that recruiting from poorer countries (like South Africa) is poaching, taking away professional care from those who may need it most.

Job Satisfaction

In South Africa, nurses leave the profession for some of the same reasons as North American nurses: not feeling valued, low pay, migration, and retirement. But how do nurses who stay on the job feel about their work? Are their feelings similar to that of nurses in North America? Apparently, they have a lot in common.

A study published in the journal Human Resources for Health, in 2009, looked at the results of a cross-sectional survey of professional nurses in South Africa, comparing and contrasting the satisfaction of professional nurses in the private and public sectors. Of those who responded, 60 percent worked in the public system.

Next: Survey Results >>

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