Nursing in South Africa

by Hannah Maidment

Nurses are essential to all health care systems around the world. They ensure that individuals, families and communities achieve optimal health – improving their quality of life.

Because of this, being a nurse is an incredibly fulfilling and rewarding career.

Are you trying to decide what you want to do when you’re done with school? Do you know that you want to make a difference in peoples’ lives? Do you enjoy spending your days dealing with people? Do you have an interest in life sciences (or medicine)?

If you answered “yes” to these questions, then you should consider studying nursing. Being a nurse is a very rewarding career — you get to spend your days helping patients, work relatively flexible hours, don’t take your work home with you, and each day is different, bringing its own excitement and challenges.

If you’ve just completed school and wish to learn how to become a nurse in South Africa, read on to learn about the requirements and qualifications to become a nurse in South Africa.

There are three main types of nurses in South Africa:

  • Registered Nurses or Nursing Sisters 

They are responsible for the supervision of enrolled and enrolled auxiliary nurses as well as typical nursing responsibilities.

  • Enrolled Nurses 

They perform limited nursing care.

  • Enrolled Nursing Auxiliaries

They perform basic procedures and care for patients on a general level.

According to the South African Nursing Council Statistics, the nursing industry in South Africa is growing. Fast.

In the last 10 years, there has been a 29% increase in registered nurses (across all three categories) over 60 000 new nurses registered in South Africa since 2009.

Registered nurses have seen an increase of 32%, while enrolled nurses and enrolled nursing auxiliaries have seen increases of 47% and 9% respectively.

nursing in south africa

As a nurse, you’re likely to always have a job. According to the South African Health Review 2017, nurses make up the largest single number of healthcare professionals in South Africa.

And if you don’t love the idea of working in a hospital, don’t worry – your options don’t end there. As a nurse, you can work in schools, universities, out-patient clinics and pharmacies, government institutions, nursing homes, research labs and many other settings.

Nursing can also be a financially-attractive job, earning between R20 500 and R29 000 a month.

Starting to see the appeal? Carry on reading to find out how to get there.

What are the minimum requirements to study Nursing in South Africa?

Students must acquire at least a matric education standard and have passed Mathematics, English, a First/Home Language, Life Orientation and Life Science.

Finally, similarly to the Diploma enrolment requirements, the student must enrol as a nurse with the South African Nursing Council.

What Qualifications Do I Need to Become a Nurse?

To become a certified nurse, you have to go through two steps:

  1. you must get a qualification from an accredited school and
  2. you must register with SANC.

Private colleges in South Africa and public institutions provide the same degrees and diplomas. To complete your qualification, simply pick a school that suits your needs.

To qualify as a nurse, you can do one of the following:

  • a four-year bachelor degree in nursing (BCur– Bachelor of Nursing Science, Education & Administration)

After you get your qualification, you have to register with the South African Nursing Council (SANC)

You can choose to complete your qualification at a public tertiary institution or at a private nursing college. These private colleges, such as Mediclinic, Netcare Education or Life College, offer the same diplomas or degrees as the universities and universities of technology.

what-qualifications-do-I-need-to-become-a-Nurse

Bachelor's Degree in Nursing Science (BCur) - 4 years

Students must acquire at least a matric education standard and have passed Mathematics, English, a First/Home Language, Life Orientation and Life Science.

Finally, similarly to the Diploma enrolment requirements, the student must enrol as a nurse with the South African Nursing Council.

The bachelor’s degree in nursing is generally a four-year-long course that is offered by most public universities in South Africa such as:

The degree consists of both a compulsory practical clinical training component and a theoretical component. Once you have completed a BCur (or equivalent), you are able to register as a professional nurse and midwife with the SANC.

Bachelor's Degree (BCur) Entry Requirements

It is recommended that you take Mathematics, Physical Sciences and Life Sciences, but this is not compulsory at all institutions. You will need a National Senior Certificate (NSC) or equivalent qualification at exit level 4, with:

  • English (50-59%)
  • First additional or home language (50-59%)
  • Life Sciences (50-59%)
  • Maths Literacy (50-59%)
  • Life Orientation (50-59%)

Be sure to check these entry requirements from your chosen institution.

What does the course look like?

The BCur usually prepares students to work in four specific fields:

  • general nursing (working in hospitals and medical practices)
  • community nursing
  • psychiatric nursing
  • midwifery (caring for mothers and babies)

Your course will have a practical component. You will learn how to do the kind of practical work you will need to be able to do when you become a nurse. In the theoretical component, you will learn the theory of what it is to be a nurse. You will study medical, biological and natural sciences, psychological and social sciences, and pharmacology to have the knowledge you need to be a competent and successful healthcare professional.

Diploma in Nursing - 3 years

These courses are often offered by universities of technology like DUTTUTVUT and CPUT. This course is only three years long and also consists of practical and theoretical work. After you have completed this qualification, you can work as a registered staff nurse or enrolled nurse.

Diploma Entry Requirements

You will need a National Senior Certificate (NSC) or equivalent qualification at exit level 3 or 4, depending on the institution, to qualify to study this course. However, it is not as important that you have taken mathematics and/or physical sciences as it is for the BCur. You will also need:

  • English (50-59%)
  • First additional or home language (50-59%)
  • Four other subjects (50-59%)
  • Life Orientation (50-59%)

What does the course look like?

During this course, you will cover similar work to what you would cover in the BCur degree. You will go less in-depth with the work as the course is shorter. You will learn how to provide nursing care, apply your knowledge in the nursing practice, diagnose and treat minor illnesses and provide reproductive health care.

Browse through all the institutions in South Africa and find out everything you need to know from courses on offer, application information and residence availability.

Higher Certificate in Auxillary Nursing - 1 year

This is a one-year qualification that aims to equip you with the skills you will need to provide basic nursing care to individuals while working under the supervision of a nurse who holds a national diploma or degree.

After completing your higher certificate you will be able to register as an enrolled nursing auxiliary.

Higher Certificate Entry Requirements

You will need a National Senior Certificate (NSC) or equivalent qualification at exit level 3 or 4, depending on the institution, to qualify to study this course, however, it is not as important that you have taken mathematics, physical sciences or life sciences as it is for the BCur. You will also need:

  • English (50-59%)
  • First additional or home language (50-59%)
  • Four other subjects (50-59%)
  • Life Orientation (50-59%)

What does the course look like?

This course will teach you how to apply your knowledge of the theory, the practice of basic nursing and how to assess, plan, implement and evaluate basic nursing care for individuals and groups.

This course is designed to strengthen and deepen your knowledge in nursing and midwifery. During this course, you will specialize as a nurse or midwife (or accoucheur).

This course is also only one year long and can only be completed after you have received a diploma or degree in nursing. Unlike the other courses, this course is mostly theoretical. This qualification will also be helpful if you wish to pursue a career in nursing management. This is the postgraduate course for an individual who has a diploma in nursing, will have to complete in order to work as a nursing sister in South African Hospitals.

Postgraduate Advanced Diploma in Nursing

A Postgraduate Advanced Diploma in Nursing will equip you to work as a specialist practitioner alongside other team members in primary care to provide comprehensive clinical care.

It will help you understand and critically assess the principles, theories, key issues, and debates in primary health care.

In addition, you will learn how to apply specialist knowledge and skills in providing advanced clinical care to
individuals of all ages, as well as to families in a primary care environment.

Postgraduate Advanced Diploma Entry Requirements

In order to enrol in a postgraduate advanced diploma in nursing course, you have to have completed:

  • Bachelor in Nursing Sciences (or equivalent) or a degree and comprehensive diploma
  • Diplomas in nursing and midwifery
  • Advanced diploma in midwifery, staff nurse and advanced diploma

You also have to have some experience to apply to this course – excluding your community service year. You have to have two years of experience as a Professional Nurse and/or Midwife (including at least one year in the field of speciality within the last five years).

What does the course look like?

This course is designed to teach you how to work like a clinically-focused nurse, well-informed, competent, and innovative. At the end of this course, you will have specialized as a nurse or midwife/accoucheur and you will be able to give well-informed scientific care to your patients.

After your Qualification

After you qualify and register with the SANC, you can choose to work in any number of places, but if you want to study further, you can study for a master’s degree or advanced diploma in nursing and you can register as an advanced practice nurse. There are two main categories of advanced practise nurses:

  • Clinical nurse specialists: People who have in-depth and specialized qualifications who work closely and collaboratively with other medical practitioners.
  • Advanced nurse practitioner: A person who works in primary care — health assessment and the diagnosis and treatment of ailments. In South Africa, advanced nurse practitioners are often referred to as primary health care nurses and they can work as midwives, psychiatric and paediatric nurses outside of the hospital environment.

A Day in the Life of a Nurse

What does a day in the life of a registered nurse actually look like?  We met up with Gabriella Serrotti, a registered nurse through Mediclinic, to find out.

Is Nursing Right for you?

Nursing, like all other careers, has satisfying and demanding aspects. You get to spend your days helping others and working with people, and there is plenty of challenges and variety in the work, however, you do a trade that for long and taxing hours, spending the day on your feet and working under pressure. But if you enjoy working with other people, have a strong desire to help others and make a difference, consider yourself sympathetic, responsible, dependable and resourceful, work well under pressure and have an interest in the medical sciences, then nursing is definitely a career choice that you should consider.

FundiConnect's Take

If you’re interested in becoming a nurse, but maybe looking for a job with a little more authority – you should consider studying to become a clinical associate. This is a new group of healthcare workers who are trained to have the necessary knowledge and developed the necessary skills to assist doctors in district hospitals to improve patient care.

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