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‘Thank you for representing UKZN exceptionally well in the clinical settings and for fully embracing the UKZN values of respect, excellence, accountability, client orientation, honesty, and trust. Keep up the good work,’ said UKZN’s Nursing Discipline Academic Leader to third-year Nursing students who recently completed their clinical training at a number of Durban hospitals.
‘You have displayed the attributes we aspire to inculcate in our UKZN nursing graduates, the attributes that make UKZN graduates stand out in the crowd. You are trendsetters and leaders in the making,’ she said proudly.
Mtshali was addressing the soon to be fourth-year class after lecturers shared glowing reports from all the clinical facilities where the students were placed. ‘During this time of the pandemic, you as UKZN Nursing students have raised the bar and profiled UKZN in a very positive light,’ added Mtshali.
‘Your excellent conduct, behaviour and dedication to serving those in need during this unprecedented time has created a new appreciation of the skills, knowledge and support students bring in the clinical settings. This has resulted in a positive shift in attitude among the nurses and members of the health teams that have worked with you.
‘The level of acceptance of UKZN Nursing students in different clinical facilities has improved significantly. Evidence of this new-found respect and high regard are the glowing reports from the clinical settings.’
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the abrupt withdrawal of students from clinical settings, creating uncertainty among lecturers and students on how the year would end and whether students would be able to complete their clinical hours.
When students were called back to campus in June 2020 in order to complete their clinical hours, lecturers were concerned whether this was possible in the short time remaining. They were also worried about students’ safety.
‘Nursing students found themselves joining well respected frontline workers, responding to a dire and unprecedented crisis. Even to the trained and experienced, this situation was new and frightening and certainly unknown territory,’ said Mtshali.
‘As Nursing students, you did not have time to comprehend the pandemic, its magnitude and impact, but had to adapt quickly and learn as you moved from one challenging situation to the next. You had to learn new ways of protecting yourselves in the clinical facilities while protecting those around you.’
She added that, without prior warning, students worked long hours in the clinical settings including repeated night duty. This assisted in health facilities that needed more hands. Some of the students contracted the virus, and some were contacts because they were in the company of those who tested positive.
‘However, you went back to the clinical settings instead of coming up with reasons not to return. You did not let COVID-19 and associated challenges deter you from your commitment to serve as frontline workers. We applaud you for that,’ said Mtshali.
Nursing lecturers Drs Pretty Mbeje and Doreen Wentzel thanked the students for their dedication and perseverance.
Student Mr Mandla Sibiya said: ‘We panicked when we found out that some patients we are nursing are positive. One would sometimes nurse a patient and three days later find out s/he is positive. We have passion and it’s been keeping us on track. Thank you for encouraging us.’
Fellow student Ms Nomvelo Ngcobo said the experience showed that the ‘road to success is not easy but we will get there.’
Words: Nombuso Dlamini