By Melodie Veldhuizen
In 1974 Sybrand de Beer became the first male matron in South Africa. In his book “Hulle noem my matrone” (They call me Matron), published in 2016, he describes his career as a nurse. In the 1950s, at the age of 17, he started working in the Johannesburg General Hospital. Because it was generally accepted that nursing was mainly a career for women, people raised their eyebrows about male nurses. Notwithstanding the challenges he had to face, Sybrand shifted boundaries and paved the way for young men who wish to follow a career in nursing.
Currently more men follow this career than decades ago. According to the statistics of the South African Nursing Council, 27 647 (9.6%) men were registered as nurses in2017, compared to 258 865 (91.4%) women.
Fasie Smith, national clinical and business strategy manager for Advanced Health, completed his training as general nurse in 1980. “I come from a large family and my parents couldn’t afford sending me to university. My mother was a nurse and for me it was an attractive option, as I could receive training and at the same time earn a bit of money. I am a very sensitive person who cares about others – and especially the sick. I have never for one day regretted the choice I made; if I had my life over I would do it again!”
Smith obtained a three-year diploma in general nursing and received theoretical and practical training while working. Every year he studied at the Sharley Cribb Nursing College in Port Elizabeth for four months, while receiving practical training at the local provincial hospital. He wrote the South African Nursing Council’s examination every year. After obtaining his diploma he worked as a professional nurse and did midwifery at the Sandveld Maternity Clinic in Port Elizabeth. In 1989 he obtained a degree in nursing from the University of Port Elizabeth. With this degree behind his name, Smith could register in nursing training and administration, as well as community nursing. “I recently obtained my Master’s degree at the University of the Witwatersrand. In this career it’s normal to dedicate your life to broadening your knowledge and staying abreast of modern nursing practices.”
(For more information about training as a nurse, visit the South African Nursing Council’s website http://www.sanc.co.za/)
There are several opportunities for promotion, according to Smith. In his career he progressed from the bottom to the top of the ladder. It takes a lot of time and requires constant training and study, as well as perseverance. You can work in a hospital, should you prefer, but you can also specialise in, for example, vocational health, or theatre and trauma nursing.
Should you as a male consider nursing as a career, but you cannot reconcile yourself with the terms ‘Sister’ and ‘Matron’, Smith gives the assurance: “Although these career titles are generally known to the public, we no longer really refer to a Sister or Matron. The titles changed quite a few years ago and now we refer to a professional nurse (Sister) and Nursing Manager (Matron).”
“My approach has always been to treat others as I would like to be treated. Everyone I have cared for has always shown me a positive attitude. When doing midwifery, initially I found it very difficult, but the patients accepted me without hesitation because I was always professional in the execution of my tasks and my conduct toward patients. Your demeanour reflects your competence and caring and a compassionate attitude brings you far.”
The advantages attached to this career? “I could work with people, also as part of a team, and made many friends through the years. I could work in other countries – I worked as nursing director in England for seven years.”
And the disadvantages? “Little pay, long hours!”
Smith’s advice to a matric boy who is considering nursing but is still unsure? “If that is your dream – do it! Make sure you excel, always try to be the best, be friendly and take care of others the way you would wish your own family to be taken care of. Follow your dream!”
Benoni City Times. https://benonicitytimes.co.za/242639/the-rise-of-the-male-nurse/
Journalism Iziko. http://journalismiziko.dut.ac.za/feature-review/men-in-nursing/
South African Nursing Council. http://www.sanc.co.za/stats/stat2017/Year%202017%20Registrations%20of%20Practitioners%20Stats.pdf