SAQA APPROVES NEW UFH QUALIFICATION: Bachelor of Nursing and Midwifery

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It’s Official!! The Nursing Science Department under the Faculty of Health Sciences has an exciting new qualification to offer: a Bachelor of Nursing and Midwifery. News of the approval of the NQF Level 08 qualification was received by the Vice-Chancellor earlier this week. The timing could not have been more perfect as the university prepares to start the 2021 academic year in March.

The approval follows a stringent application process that included fielding questions from the Department of Higher Education Training (DHET) and the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA). The bid commenced a few years ago and was driven by a dedicated team from the Faculty of Health Sciences. The SAQA endorsement letter marks a huge milestone for the faculty and university at large. The Faculty is ready to accept its first intake when the 2021 Academic Year commences on 15 March.

Prof Leon van Niekerk, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences said the programme was developed to prepare students to become independent registered professional nurses and midwives.

The students will be skilled to render comprehensive care across all health spheres. Comprehensive interventions allow them to integrate and apply the scientific process of the full range of nursing services to promote and maintain the health status of users in all contexts of health care delivery,” he explained. According to him, reports on the status of nursing in the country indicate a growing gap between the demand and supply of professional nurses and midwives, a decline in learners entering the nursing profession and the aging population of professional nurses.

The decline of learners has been a matter of great concern to the South African Nursing Council and the Ministry of Health. The problem was discussed in the Human Resources Plan for Health, launched by the then Minister of Health in April 2006. Emphasis was on the recruitment of more learners into professional nursing. The registration of a professional degree in nursing was seen as imperative to promoting the uptake of graduate and postgraduate qualifications.” “The development of this programme started only a few years ago. It was a team effort from the nursing department,” he said proudly.

The bid Team Dr Nonyaniso Nkutu was appointed as the curriculum developer and the bidding process was set in motion. The programme had to adhere to the minimum standards set by both the South African Nursing Council (SANC) and the Council on Higher Education (CHE). The application was sent to DHET for accreditation and then to SAQA for registration in their qualifications registry.

During the pandemic, the team had to reply to some questions, first from DHET and then SAQA. “The department addressed these appropriately and I must commend the role of Prof Daniel Ter Goon (former Acting Dean and the leadership of the Nursing Department, Mrs Ntombana Rala and Ms Tobeka Mtise, in getting it done under challenging circumstances”, said Prof Van Niekerk.

About the programme

This is a four-year programme that also includes clinical training and practical hours done in hospitals over the course of the four years. Prof Van Niekerk said of importance in this programme is the scope of the curriculum. “It aims to expose students to be more comprehensively qualified than before, with a scope that includes obstetric skills, mental health and primary health care skills. The skills are valuable for first-level contact and provision of health services, with a referral system in operation when cases are beyond their scope.”

The qualification prepares nurses and midwives to work with all patients, stabilised or not, and to take responsibility for health care in any context. In addition, they will take responsibility for managing nursing care in a health care facility. The degree will provide students with a comprehensive view of the field and the necessary skills to screen patients and refer as required.

Significance

Asked why it was important for UFH and the province to have this programme, Prof Van Niekerk said: “UFH is one of the key resources in the province for the development and training of nurses and midwives. It is thus important for the university to take its place on the frontline of training of professional nurses and midwives who could play a leadership role in the provision of health services in the Eastern Cape”.

Opportunities of Specialisation and Research

Prof Van Niekerk believes there is a strong need for nurses and midwives to be equipped to promote quality health care in South Africa. “They are expected to initiate quality measures and take full responsibility for all nursing and midwifery practices. The qualification also intends to provide them access to further academic routes and provides for high-quality learning opportunities with a focus on specialisation and research.”

Way forward

The next step is to finalize preparations in the department and for staff members to be ready to present the programme. According to Prof Van Niekerk, the department has largely concluded all the preparations in anticipation for the accreditation of the programme. Curriculum development, study guides and learning materials are in place. “The last few outstanding tasks include amending the prospectus of the faculty to include the programme. Preparation of the Programme and Qualification Mix and the Integrated Tertiary Software (ITS) to register students is being completed,” he said.

This is indeed a remarkable achievement for the faculty and university at large.

by Aretha Linden