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Nurses 'fed up' with state jobs.

Shock research findings predict serious problems for nursing--more than 1 in 3 nurses canvassed said bluntly they wanted to be out of the profession in 5 years. In the public sector especially, nurses complained about their pay, workload, resources at health institutions, career opportunities and safety. Dr Rubin Pillay warned that the results were disconcerting, considering that work satisfaction affected absenteeism and turnover, morale and health, productivity and clinical outcomes. 'This in turn has implications for the efficiency and sustainability of our healthcare system,' Pillay said.

Pillay, head of research in the University of the Western Cape's School of Business and Finance, said his study--which is a comparative analysis of nurses' work satisfaction in both the public and private sectors, addressed a gap in the literature about the issue. Previous local studies, he said, were limited to individual organisations, were conducted regionally only, used small samples or data collected prior to the sociopolitical transformation in health.

The study included 1 000 professional nurses, about 40% from the private sector and the remainder working in state health institutions. Most were from Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape. Overall, Pillay said that in general professional nurses were marginally dissatisfied, but private sector nurses were more upbeat than their state sector counterparts, whom his research showed were generally dissatisfied.

Admittedly, there were significant differences depending on, among other things, the province in which nurses worked and their levels of experience. The women nurses were generally more satisfied than their male colleagues, as were nurses older than 40, and those with more than 20 years' experience. Importantly, one of the major differences in satisfaction levels between private and public sector nurses was around safety in the workplace--personal safety risk of infection, risk of injury and the work environment.

Pillay said the emergence of diseases like extremely drug-resistant tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, added to an already over-burdened public health care system, contributed to the weakening of the safety of the nursing work environment. 'In addition, patients with these illnesses generally require more specialised care and longer-term treatment than other patients, further increasing the workload,' he said.

Unhappiness with pay in the public sector especially, Pillay suggested, could partly explain the shift to the private sector of so many nurses. But he hoped the Occupational Specific Dispensation, implemented this month, which significantly improved public sector nurses' salaries, would address the problem to some extent.

Pillay suggested that health administrators take this further and link portions of remuneration to performance objectives, and consider non-financial and psychological rewards. Further, he said, thought needed to be given to improving work schedules as well as to other things like providing day-care for children, and more part-time work prospects.

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Title Annotation:South Africa
Author:Bateman, Chris
Publication:CME: Your SA Journal of CPD
Geographic Code:6SOUT
Date:Mar 1, 2008
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