By Marli Naidoo
The medical field consists largely of nursing staff (76,8%) and their role in promoting health and service delivery is undisputable. However, there is a huge shortage of trained nurses in the public sector. This leads to state hospitals using agencies to fill these shortages and staff working at more than one institution at the same time, resulting in bigger expenses for the government (who could hire more nursing staff in permanent positions if there were enough nurses available) and nursing staff working as contract workers without benefits (such as contributions to their retirement fund).
Not only nurses working in the private sector has more than one employer. Large numbers of nursing staff working in state hospitals also make use of agencies to get more work. These extra hours worked by nurses brings a considerable amount of concern that they may burn out and then start to neglect the care of patients. However, this was not found to be the case. Studies show that nurses are very happy in their workplace especially those who receive extra work through the agencies in private hospitals. These nurses show a low chance of burnout and high levels of compassion, satisfaction, personal performance and work engagement. Work engagement is a state of mind that is characterised by high energy levels, dedication, and a happy attitude in your work.
Of course, this is not always the case. Some nurses are completely overworked, cannot focus on their work and takes sick leave when they are not really sick.
Reasons why nurses take extra hours are not just financial in nature. There are several other reasons. Some nurses see this as an opportunity to learn new skills. Others like the choice between ward or unit, where others like the variety of tasks and find the work stimulating. Other reasons are the feedback they receive, the workhours that fit their programme, the chance to use modern equipment and infrastructure, and possible opportunities study further.
These reasons all result in job satisfaction. However, the underlying problem is that it should not be necessary for nurses to work extra hours on top of their fulltime positions. The state and nursing bodies need to make serious adjustments in training, salaries, opportunities and other challenges that nursing staff face. Control over agencies are also important. It should not be possible for an employee to work at so many institutions that he or she does not have time to get enough rest.
Nurses are extremely important for the wellbeing of all medical institutions and this field must enjoy immediate and urgent attention. Every nurse must know that the state and every employer need him or her and that they will create only the best work environment.
Wiley Online Library: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/ijn.12783
The Citizen: https://citizen.co.za/news/south-africa/419136/70-of-sa-nurses-have-a-secondary-job-study/