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Health SA Gesondheid (Online)

On-line version ISSN 2071-9736
Print version ISSN 1025-9848

Health SA Gesondheid (Online) vol.15 n.1 Cape Town  2010




Retaining professional nurses in South Africa: Nurse managers' perspectives



Elizabeth Mokoka; Martha J. Oosthuizen; Valerie J. Ehlers

Department of Health Studies, University of South Africa, South Africa





South Africa is experiencing a serious shortage of nurses, which has to be addressed to prevent crises in health care services. Previous studies (Fletcher 2001:324; Oosthuizen 2005:117) found that nurses change their work environment due to dissatisfaction with their job situations. This implies that creating a favourable environment in the workplace situation could help retain professional nurses in their posts, implying that retention strategies should be effective.
An exploratory, descriptive, contextual and qualitative design was used to describe nurse managers' views on factors which could influence professional nurse retention, as well as their views regarding attributes that were required to enable them to contribute towards enhancing professional nurse retention. A purposive sample of nurse managers employed in public and private hospitals in the Gauteng province was selected. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 21 nurse managers. The results were analysed qualitatively and contextualised within Vogt, Cox, Velthouse and Thames's Cork-Top (Bottleneck) Theory of Nurse Retention (1983) and Lewin's Force-Field Analysis Theory (1952).
Factors pertaining to individual nurses, the organisation and nurse managers could influence the retention of professional nurses. Poor working conditions, long and inconvenient working hours, uncompetitive salaries and professional development of nurses have to be addressed to enhance professional nurses' retention. Unsafe working environments and a lack of resources threaten the safety and well-being of nurses and patients and contribute to high turnover rates. Nurse managers have to address shortcomings in their managerial and leadership skills and implement changes within a multigenerational nursing workforce and challenging working environments.

Keywords: baby boomers; generation X; generation Y; nurse retention; silent generation


Suid-Afrika ervaar 'n ernstige tekort aan verpleegkundiges wat aangespreek moet word ten einde krisisse in gesondheidsorgdienste te voorkom. Vorige studies (Fletcher 2001:324; Oosthuizen 2005:117) het bevind dat verpleegkundiges hulle werksomgewing verander as gevolg van ontevredenheid met hulle werksituasies. Dit impliseer dat die daarstelling van 'n gunstige omgewing in die werkpleksituasie, kan help om professionele verpleegkundiges in hulle poste te behou, wat beteken dat retensiestrategieë doeltreffend moet wees.
'n Verkennende, beskrywende, kontekstuele, kwalitatiewe ontwerp was gebruik om verpleegbestuurders se sienings te bekom, oor faktore wat professionele verpleegkundiges se retensie kan beïnvloed, asook hulle sienings omtrent vereiste hoedanighede wat hulle in staat sou stel om professionele verpleegkundiges se retensie te bevorder. 'n Doelgerigte steekproef van verpleegbestuurders in openbare en private hospitale in die Gauteng provinsie is gekies. Semi-gestruktureerde onderhoude is met 21 verpleegbestuurders gevoer. Die resultate is kwalitatief ontleed en gekontekstualiseer volgens Vogt, Cox, Velthouse en Thames se Kurkprop Bottelnek (Cork-Top Bottleneck) Teorie van Verpleegretensie (1983) en Lewin se Kragveld Analise Teorie (1952).
Faktore met betrekking tot individuele verpleegkundiges, die organisasie en verpleegbestuurders kan die retensie van professionele verpleegkundiges beïnvloed. Swak werksomstandighede, lang en ongerieflike werksure, nie-mededingende salarisse en professionele ontwikkeling van verpleegkundiges moet aangespreek word om professionele verpleegkundiges se retensie te bevorder. Onveilige werksomgewings en 'n gebrek aan hulpbronne bedreig die veiligheid en die welsyn van verpleegkundiges en pasiënte en dra by tot hoë omsetsyfers. Verpleegbestuurders moet die tekortkominge in hulle bestuurs- en leierskapsvaardighede aanspreek en veranderinge implementeer binne 'n multigenerasie verpleegwerkkrag en uitdagende werksomgewings.



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Martha Oosthuizen
University of South Africa
Department of Health Studies
PO Box 392
UNISA 0003
South Africa

Received: 04 Aug. 2009
Accepted: 26 July 2010
Published: 03 Nov. 2010

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