Rural Nursing, South Africa

Decent Work and Economic Growth
Case Study Submitted by: Guinevere Lourens, (PhD) Nursing masters (TB+HIV), RM, RN
Country: South Africa
Have the faith of your convictions - step forward and be a voice to lead and champion nursing issues which will positively affect health of communities in your country.

In South Africa, more than a third of the population (35% according to World Bank indicators, 2015) live in rural areas. Yet, only around 12% of the country’s doctors and 18% of its nurses work in these areas. In some rural areas of South Africa, up to 40% of nursing posts are vacant.

Rural and remote populations often have a greater need for access to better healthcare and the uneven distribution of health professionals drives the burden of disease. Adequate rural healthcare, which includes well trained rural nurses, is needed to ensure that rural women and children receive the recommended amount of healthcare they need in aspects such as contraception, antenatal care, immunisation and more. Due to the burden of disease, reducing Tuberculosis and the spread of HIV is another important function of rural nurses in South Africa.

While a number of health professionals had organised themselves to lobby for the rural healthcare environment, these conversations were taking place with the startling absence of the nursing professionals.

In order to take the lead and create a voice for rural nurses amidst many other conversations, in 2014 Dr Guin Lourens and eight fellow nurses established Rural Nursing South Africa or RuNurSA with the aim of cultivating nurse leadership in South Africa.

RuNurSA works in partnership with the Rural Health Advocacy Project, Rural Doctors Association of South Africa, and Rural Rehab South Africa, Together they have identified the need to work with a holistic team of role-players to better address the shortcomings in rural healthcare.

As the first voice leading rural nursing in South Africa, RuNurSA has started a social media page which is gaining momentum. In keeping with their intention to create recognition for the work that rural nurses do, the organisation had its inaugural Rural Nurse of the Year Award in 2016. The winner was a rural nurse who has worked for many years in mobile health clinics on farms and who did a masters’ study aimed at improving the working environment of the rural nurse. This award directed widespread media attention to the working conditions of rural nurses and the critical role they play in bringing health to populations who would otherwise have virtually no other healthcare.

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