This career of caring for others is both rewarding and varied, offering you plenty of opportunities.
Nursing is one of the most in-demand jobs in South Africa right now. From specialised nursing roles through to nurses in hospitals and clinics, this role is incredibly varied and allows you to interact with people on a daily basis, often changing their lives for the better.
One of the reasons why South Africa is suffering from a shortage of nurses is because other countries, like Australia, are wooing them across the ocean.
This is one career that will allow you some freedom to travel and live in different countries.
Learning how to become a nurse does ask that you have certain skills and personality traits and you do need to study through an accredited organisation. Nursing skills are technical and require a high level of competence to ensure both you and your patient’s safety.
There are also many different paths that you can take as a nurse, each one asking you to undertake specialised or different training to get there.
Some of the most common are Registered Nurse (RN), critical care RN, operating theatre RN, caregiver, occupational health nurse, phlebotomist, intensive care nurse, midwife, and psychiatric nurse. These different specialisations will not only ask that you undergo extra training, but they will affect how much you are paid and where you can work.
A phlebotomist is someone trained to draw blood from patients and you can work anywhere from a hospital to a blood laboratory like Lancet or Ampath. A midwife is trained to work with mothers in childbirth and to help them safely deliver their baby, either at home or in a medical setting. Each one of these specialisations will appeal to different types of people. You can even take a management role as a nurse which means you can head up departments or manage teams.
There are some essential skills that you will need as a person to really thrive in the nursing field. It is challenging, but it is also extremely rewarding. You will meet many different kinds of people, but you will be faced with emotional and physical hurdles as you help them get well.
As a nurse you will provide physical and technical nursing care to patients, ensure they receive their medications and treatments, monitor their vitals, prepare them for operations, and manage their care. If you undertake the new training regimes that are being introduced as of next year, you will be able to work unsupervised and you will gain immense freedom in terms of where you can work.
As a nurse you will need to:
- Be compassionate and interested in caring for other people
- A matric certificate with maths, life sciences and English plus one home language
- Pay attention to detail
- Have emotional and physical strength
- Good at communicating
- Willing to never stop learning
The type of person who would thrive in this profession would be someone who has good interpersonal skills, a passion for problem solving, physically fit, open to working strange hours, punctual and committed to others.
According to Payscale, the average registered nurse (RN) salary in South Africa is R230k per year.
Boost your skills while at school
To become a nurse – whether a general nurse or a specialised one – you will need to have completed Matric and you will need to have specialised in certain subjects. The most important are Physical Sciences, Maths, English and Science.
You will be expected to have an exemption in these subjects and some universities may ask for different requirements. It is really important that you check and see what your chosen education institution requires for entry.
There is a very helpful leaflet on the Cape Peninsula University of Technology website that breaks down the various subjects and their combinations for you.
To boost your science skills, visit the free Vodacom e-school portal for extra lessons and helpful guides. You can use the portal to also further your skills in English and Life Sciences. If you want even more oomph for your maths, visit Top Dog for lessons – the site even offers you rewards for achieving milestones and will inspire you to keep on going.
Vodacom e-school does ask you to register first but the process is as simple as entering your name, a password of your choosing, and the one-time-pin that they send you. Then select your grade (you can change this at any time) and start learning.
Read our comprehensive breakdown of the nursing profession below to find out which role best suits you and your career aspirations and to help you choose the right subjects at school.
How to train to become a nurse
You have to attend a South African Nursing Council (SANC) accredited nursing institution to become a fully qualified nurse. There are some very strict regulations around who can or cannot provide nursing training, as much to protect you as to protect the patient, so it is advisable that you study only with those institutions that are accredited and recognised.
As from 2020, there will be a new three-year diploma in general nursing offered by some colleges and universities. These have already been pre-approved and put on the SANC website (see below for links). This will become the new entry-level qualification and then you can study additional skills such as phlebotomy, midwifery, oncology and psychiatry, among others, once you are completed your initial training. When selecting your college or university, consider how connected they are with the working world and with specific hospitals or medical clinics. You want to be offered a seamless path to a job once you’ve qualified.
Accredited Education Institutions:
- A comprehensive list of all the private nursing education institutions that are accredited to offer new nursing programmes with effect from 2020, per province can be found here.
- A list of universities accredited to offer the new nursing programmes from 2020, per province, can be found here.
- Accredited private nursing education institutions that are still offering the older nursing programmes can be found here.
- Public nursing education institutions that are still offering the legacy qualifications can be found here.
- South African Nursing Council (SANC)
- Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA)
- Department of Health Government Gazette on Nursing Education and Training