International Nurses Day: Interview with Ntombifuthi Luthuli

Today is International Nurses Day, and this year’s theme is Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in Nursing and respect rights to secure global health. TB HIV Care values and respects nurses and the work that they do. For International Nurses Day, we’ve interviewed nurses within the organisation, focusing on their journey within the nursing field, lessons learnt throughout their career, and gained insight into their thoughts on the importance of investing in nursing!

1. Why did you decide to embark on a career in nursing?

• Helping others achieve their goals has always motivated me, and it is rewarding to make a difference in someone’s life. Nursing provides a unique opportunity to assist people in achieving a healthy state of being, which is one of life’s most essential aspects. The rewarding nature of the job, combined with the potential for stable employment opportunities, has inspired me to pursue a nursing career in which I have grown to be one of the best clinical practitioners.

2. Take as through your career from where you started to where you are now?

• I began with a four-year Diploma in General Nursing, Community, Psychiatry, and Midwifery and graduated as a Professional Nurse. I then pursued a Diploma in Primary Health Care speciality, which led to my becoming a clinical nurse practitioner. I worked independently in assessing, diagnosing, treating, and rehabilitating clients in a Primary Health Care setting. I went on to earn a BCur in Nursing Management and Nursing Education, allowing me to pursue a Post Graduate Diploma in Public Health. After completing the post-graduate diploma, I enrolled in and completed the Master of Public Health programme, allowing me to currently enrol as a candidate for the PhD in Public Health.

3. What is your current role within TB HIV Care, and what is your core responsibility?

• Currently, I work as a Quality Improvement Technical Lead for the Priority Populations Prevention (PPPrev) & PrEP Programme. I am responsible for providing technical support across all aspects of the PPPrev Programme. This includes conducting adolescent and youth-friendly services (AYFS) assessments, developing programme implementation documents, developing staff capacity building, developing models of care, supporting quality improvement initiatives, monitoring performance progress, solving operational problems, and writing progress reports.

4. If you look back on your career, is there anything you wish you had done differently?

• I would have joined the nursing profession immediately after completing my matric, and I would have contributed to saving more lives.

5. What have you enjoyed most about this profession?

• It was extremely rewarding to be one of the nurses who received NIMART training and began saving clients from HIV-related deaths. It was heartbreaking to lose clients to AIDS, but once nurses were given the authority to initiate ART, we started saving lives. I gained a lot of job satisfaction and fulfilment from seeing clients recover and enjoy a better quality of life. ART initiations were not limited to adults but also included children and adolescents.

6. What has been the most challenging part of your career to date?

• There is limited funding available to support the nurses in South Africa, which results in nurses having to pay for their studies. I have experienced challenges getting bursaries or scholarships as an employed nursing professional.

7. What do you still want to achieve in your career?

• With my current academic journey, I am hoping to complete my PhD and use my experience in the public health space to contribute to writing guidelines and policies based on the latest scientific research aimed at improving the state of the public health system in South Africa by highlighting contributions made by nurses and also to improve the negative image of the nursing profession created by media.

8. What advice would you give to aspiring nurses who want to reach a managerial position?

• I would encourage nurses to keep up with the current changes by constantly enrolling in the available courses to improve our profession. Nurses are the backbone of the health system, and we should be competent and knowledgeable to provide quality health care services. I would advise nurses to take speciality courses so that when consulting the client, we can advocate for comprehensive, holistic and quality health care services.

9. Are there any qualities or skills that you learnt as a nurse that have served you well in a managerial position?

• Being a manager has taught me skills such as excellent communication, work ethics, critical thinking, and problem-solving abilities. Computer skills were not emphasised as a nurse, so I had to learn them. I had to ensure that I improved my technological skills, such as computer literacy, quality improvement, and monitoring and evaluation.

The theme for International Nurses Day (IND) 2022 is – Nurses: A Voice to Lead – Invest in nursing and respect rights to secure global health, focusing on the need to protect, support and invest in the nursing profession to strengthen health systems around the world.

10. Applied in a South African context, are we investing enough in the nursing profession?

• Numerous articles and headlines in South African media have portrayed nurses in a negative light, potentially influencing public perceptions of nurses. Nurses must ensure that the nursing profession’s positive image is restored by adhering to policies and serving as good leaders in order to attract more young nurses to our profession.