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Exploring unit manager’s experiences with community service nurses in selected nursing units in KwaZulu-Natal.

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Background: Community service for nurses was introduced in January 2008, after it was legislated in the Nursing Act (55 of 2005). Unit managers assist these nurses during their transition process, from community service nurse, to professional nurses, but are confronted with many challenges. A number of these challenges include various committee meetings, resource allocations, staff supervision and development. Consequently, they are torn between their multiple roles (Dutton, Baker, Crickmore, Hudson, Marshburn, & Rose, 2012:1-6). Aim: The aim of this study was to explore the unit manager’s experiences with community service nurses in selected nursing units in KwaZulu-Natal. Method: The study adopted an exploratory, descriptive and contextual approach in which individual semi-structured interviews were conducted following a qualitative approach. The target population was all the unit managers in a district, a district/ regional, a regional/ tertiary and in specialized health care facilities. Purposive sampling was used to select the study subjects. The sample size included all the unit managers who met the inclusion criteria. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with ten unit managers in four health care facilities. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, and analysed using content analysis. Results: The results revealed that unit managers welcomed community service nurses. The major concern was that they lacked knowledge as to why community service for nurses was implemented, and how to manage these nurses. The findings further revealed that the unit managers in different health care facilities are doing what they feel is right and required during that year of remunerated community service. Recommendations: Management in health care facilities should provide training for unit managers and professional nurses in acting positions regarding roles and responsibilities of community service nurses as part of their orientation and in-service training program. It is recommended that each institution has specific policies, procedures and an orientation program, such as, allocation policy, job description and performance appraisal to guide unit managers in respect of community service nurses’ supervision. Furthermore, the relevant stakeholders should aim at improving current orientation, mentorship and preceptorship programs for community service nurses Conclusion: From the shared perceptions of the unit managers, although the findings cannot be generalised, this study showed that the unit manager’s experiences with community service nurses in the selected nursing units was very similar. It is recommended that a document outlining the specific scope of practice and acts and omissions for community service nurses be put in place for the benefit of the unit managers. Unit managers need to be supported by nursing management.


Master of Nursing Management. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, 2016.