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Graduation Ceremony - Henrietta Stockdale Nursing College

26 June 2010: 09h30

Speech by the Honourable MEC for Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Mr Norman Shushu, on the occasion of the Graduation Ceremony of the Henrietta Stockdale Nursing College. Kimberley, Frances Baard District – Northern Cape,
Programme Director

Members of the Executive Council

Members of the Provincial Legislature

Chairperson and Members of the Provincial Portfolio Committee on Health

Executive Mayor of the Frances Baard District Municipality

Mayor of Sol Plaatje Local Municipality

The Acting Head of Department of Health

Principal and Registrar of the Nursing College

Esteemed guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Comrades and Friends

On the 14th June we marked the 82nd birthday of a symbol of the Cuban Revolution, Ernesto “Che” Guevara, who was born on that day in 1928 and brutally murdered by Bolivian forces. Che was a Argentine Marxist Revolutionary and a medical practitioner who placed humanity, dignity and international solidarity above his personal benefit. He was a trained physician, author, intellect, guerrilla leader, diplomat and military theorist who realised that his own position in society cannot be more important than the broader good of society and the well being of humanity. We are indeed honoured today to be part of this august occasion where we are witnessing the culmination of years of training and hard work coming to fruition. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate our graduates today on what should be a splendid personal achievement.

Government has made health care a priority for the next five years and it is pleasing for us to witness the injection of yet another group of young nursing professionals into our health care system, the increase in the number of qualified health care professionals should also translate into improved quality of health care as well as more accessibility of health care, especially in the rural and underserved areas of the Northern Cape Province. I also wish to thank the leadership of the college for making sure that correct procedures were followed and never gave up hope in order to have the college accredited by the South African Nursing Council. I am also mindful of the fact that nursing is a theoretical and practical profession and without the support and dedication of the nurses in the clinical area, your dreams of training qualified professionals would never have been realised. .

Ladies and gentlemen, I made a reference in my opening address to El Comandante Che Guevara and we need to give context to that particular reference. The provision of quality health care by trained professionals is a job that requires conscious people who know that they are not in the profession only because they need a job but also to realise that they must serve humanity and be selfless and dedicated to saving lives as a key driver to their profession. Nurses play a critical role in the realisation of our mandate to deliver quality health services as well as our vision of “Health service excellence for all”. They carry the responsibility of bringing health services to communities from Primary Health Care to Tertiary and Quaternary Health Care Level. Any shortage of a experienced professional cadre negatively impacts on access and the quality of health care that is enshrined in the country's constitution. Our country and our province needs more supply of skills to sustain and enhance our development and create the necessary capacity for the state to be able to deliver as a developmental state. We as government believe that the training, particularly of our young people is critical if we are to achieve our goal of a better life for all. It is in this context that government is making a deliberate effort to intensify education and training programmes. When the MEC for Health presented his Budget Vote on 06 May 2010 he stated: ”Our initial vacancy rate of 41% has been reduced to 39%, with a target of further 25% reduction in 2010-2011. Gradually, step by step, we are realising our dream of providing healthcare to all our people, where they live, as our statistics and records signal another achievement, by the end of this financial year, whereby sixty-three (63) learners would have completed their Nursing Diploma”. Today we are experiencing this promise made.

Programme director, empathy in the health care profession is best described not by words but by the actions that our health care professionals show in the workplace and outside of the working environment.

*Empathy is a nursing student working a 13 hour shift and forgetting to eat or stopping to use the bathroom because the patient’s needs are placed above his or her own.

*Empathy is a nursing student walking down the hall to a paediatric patient’s room every hour to collect a diaper, inspect, weigh, and chart the less-than-pleasant findings.

*Empathy is a nursing student going into the hospital the night before their shift and spending hours upon hours researching every aspect of their assigned patient to provide the best care possible the next day.

*Empathy is a nursing student who learns to hide the repulsed look their face so desperately wants to make as they change a dressing or empty a drain.

*Empathy is a nursing student who cares so much about her education, she leaves class at the end of the school day to work an overnight shift or arrives first thing in the morning for that 8am class after having worked all night.

*Empathy is a nursing student who comes home after a series of four-hour long lectures at school and still has enough homework to fill up the night, but cooks and cleans and takes care of his or her family despite their exhaustion.

*Empathy is a nurse who learns to just be silent and be in the moment with the patient who just needs someone to cry with.

*Most of all, empathy is a nurse who takes his or her profession seriously with patients’ precious lives in their hands, double checks their work, and delivers safe, professional, and holistic care. This nurse views nursing not as a job or a task, but as a service to others to ensure the patient has the best quality of life possible.

South Africa is in the midst of celebrating youth month and commemorated Youth Day on 16 June 2010 under the theme: “Working together for youth development through action”. It also marked the 34th Anniversary of the Soweto Uprising in 1976. This commemoration takes place within the context of the first anniversary of the establishment of the National Youth Development Agency. This graduation coincides with the youth month of which our graduates form part of that group. We would like to take this opportunity to pay tribute and homage to those student nurses who passed on before completing their studies, the last death being that of Gerrit Van Wyk. We would also like to pay special tribute to the late Deputy Minister of Health, a true African Communist Dr. Molefi Sefularo as well as the former Health Minister Dr. Manto Tshabalala Msimang. Our hearts are with their families and friend who had placed all their hopes and dreams on them. May their precious souls rest in peace and can we all rise to observe a moment of silence for them.

Programme Director, this ceremony is a solemn occasion as the graduates have to commit themselves to the service of humanity. We are also mindful of the fact that nursing is a theoretical and practical profession and without the support and dedication of the nurses in the clinical area, your dreams of increasing the numbers would not have been achieved. In addition to your clinical and theoretical knowledge, nurses are expected to possess the following attributes of good communication skills, caring and compassionate ethos and commitment, loyalty and support for community and colleagues. You are expected to be there when needed the most.

As the ANC led Government, we have an obligation towards the healthcare of our people. In this light, as a response to the call of our people during the April 2009 elections, health has been prioritized as the one of the five key areas together with crime, education, rural development and job creation for the next five years. In addition, government developed a Ten Point Plan to address the service delivery challenges faced by the health sector. The graduation of this new cadre of health professionals is a direct response to Point three(3) –Improving the Quality of Health services and Point five(5) – Improved Human Resources Planning, Development and Management.

The Nursing Strategy launched in 2008 by the late Minister of Health, Dr. Manto Tshabalala Msimang focuses on five strategic focal areas on of which one is Nursing Education and Training where a call for the increase of nursing professionals amongst others is made. This can only be done once accredited Health Facilities for clinical education and training has been identified. Recruitment and retention of nurse educators where career pathing and succession planning is of vital importance.

A total of 67 graduates are now venturing into the field of nursing practice and all have already commenced with community service in our districts to address the shortage of nursing personnel. The graduation today is the beginning of another chapter in your lives. You are now responsible for your acts and omissions as dictated by your scope of practice.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Nursing Act (Act 33 of 2005) states that the safety of the public is paramount and as such, nurses should be properly prepared in their education and training in order to provide quality and safe nursing care. The curriculum should respond to the needs of the community and be aligned to National Health priorities. It will be expected of the graduates from now henceforth to be active and take the lead on matters concerning nursing. Also keep in mind that you have not learned all there is to know, therefore keep on growing, take courses that will increase your knowledge of the area that might compliment what you do, reach for higher levels of service and greater responsibility. Become the best you can be at what you do from an employment and career perspective.

Despite the fact that we as a country are hosting the world’s biggest sporting spectacle, the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup, 2010 has also been declared the International Year of the Nurse and marked the 100 year memorial of Florence Nightingale (1910 – 2010).On 12 May 2010, nurses and members of the community played their part by committing 100 minutes to nursing care in any healthcare environment.

We would like to say thank you to the Henriette Stockdale Nursing College for teaching, developing, and guiding these students into this kind of nursing – one where other people’s lives are better taken care of because of their choice to become nursing professionals. I would like to convey my best wishes for the future to all the students gathered here today. I hope that you not only thoroughly enjoyed your time at the College but will profit from your experience and training in the years to come.

In conclusion ladies and gentlemen, this is a special day for our graduates and their families and the College and I thank you for having allowed me to share this day with you. I am confident that you will make your mark within this group of young South African patriots by serving our people with dignity and respect. Your skills as nurses will contribute significantly in our province and country's efforts to promote good health and manage various diseases affecting our communities. Let us go out into our society and serve humanity with dedication, dignity, respect, selflessness, humility and be like Che Guevara.

I wish you all the best in your careers.

I Thank you.

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