Nursing in South Africa has long been neglected, in part because of the turmoil brought about by apartheid. This lack of attention has had dire implications for the vast majority of South Africans who rely on the public health system for health care.
From 2006-2012, The Atlantic Philanthropies invested $32.8 million to revitalise, develop and restore pride in the nursing profession in South Africa.
Atlantic's investments focused on strengthening: (1) institutions that train nurses; (2) professional development of nurses; (3) research capacity; and (4) nurse leadership.
A 2012 evaluation by Strategic Evaluation, Advisory & Development Consulting (SEAD) found that Atlantic's investment in the nursing sector has "had a major catalytic and sustainable positive impact." Outcomes include:
- Increased government funding and commitment to nursing
- Increased number of nurses
- Improved infrastructure for institutions of higher education
- Strengthened professional development for nurses
- Strengthened nurse leadership.
Lessons and Challenges
SEAD's report also noted several challenges including: (1) a lack of technical skills from grantees in managing complex programmes; (2) difficulty recruiting appropriately qualified nursing students and filling specialist slots; (3) disappointing graduation rates of nurses from 4-year programmes; (4) delays in government funding and approval; and (5) sustainability of funded programmes.
The report concludes with a number of lessons that may be useful to other funders seeking to contribute to the revitalisation of nursing in South Africa and other countries.