Valuing exceptional nursing
- Wits University
“I am no longer in nursing, but nursing is in me,” says Professor Judith Bruce, head of the School of Therapeutic Sciences at Wits.
The values of the nursing profession resonate with Bruce and are the context of the Albertina Sisulu Memorial Lecture, which the School hosts annually.
Bruce is a registered nurse, midwife, nurse educator, community health nurse and nurse administrator. She is a Fellow of the Academy of Nursing in South Africa, inducted in recognition of her national and global contribution to nursing education and scholarship.
An advocate for nursing education
Bruce earned her undergraduate degree at the University of the Western Cape and then completed postgraduate studies at Wits. Her PhD focused on the education of specialist nurses within a university context. At the time, this was a radical idea.
"But it is coming to fruition now after 15 years,” says Bruce, who won the Phillip V. Tobias Teachers’ Award for teaching excellence in the Faculty of Health Sciences in 2002.
An advocate for nursing education and scholarship, Bruce mentored many nurse academics in South Africa and in Africa. She has worked tirelessly to improve nurse education at universities and nursing colleges. Between 2010 and 2015, Bruce was responsible for leading the Wits team in the NEPAD [New Partnership for Africa’s Development] funded initiative, in partnership with Collaboration in Higher Education for Nursing and Midwifery in Africa (CHENMA).
The NEPAD Project on Nursing and Midwifery Education in Africa was designed to respond to the concerns raised and the resultant pledges by governments of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda and Tanzania. Bruce conceptualized, developed, implemented and managed the needs-based capacity development initiative with key stakeholders in the Republic of Mozambique.
This resulted in a collaborative venture with a tertiary institution for health professionals, Instituto Superior de Ciencias de Saude (ISCISA) towards a coordinated approach to address communities’ health needs. This partnership seeks to improve the qualifications of nurses, nursing lecturers and clinicians at nursing schools and hospitals in Africa where specialist nursing skills are lacking. Bruce was the recipient of the Lucy S. Kelly International Mentor award and a joint winner of the 2016 Vice Chancellor’s Academic Citizenship Award for this initiative.
The Albertina Sisulu Memorial Lecture
The School of Therapeutic Sciences is in the Faculty of Health Sciences at Wits trains the most diverse range of healthcare professionals compared to other institutions in the country. These include healthcare professionals in Nursing Education, Occupational Therapy, Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Physiotherapy, Exercise Science and Sports Medicine.
As Head of School, Bruce aims to entrench the values that students in the School must live out in their chosen profession. The School hosts the annual Albertina Sisulu Memorial Lecture to contextualize these values.
“The late Albertina Sisulu was a nurse, a woman of integrity, and a caring, courageous humanitarian who advocated for the most vulnerable in society. Similarly, we want our staff and students to be excellent professionals who are the embodiment of these values, and to be advocates for the needs and rights of those in our care,” says Bruce.
This is paramount in a time when health worker rights tend to overshadow patients’ and communities’ rights to safe, affordable, quality health care.
Former Public Protector, Professor Thuli Madonsela will deliver the 2018 Albertina Sisulu Memorial Lecture on 7 August on the topic, Living the Legacy of Ma Sisulu: Leadership, Courage and Caring in South Africa’s Health System.
“The legacy of Ma Sisulu embodies caring and compassion for fellow human beings,” says Bruce.
The School has a Professional Standards Committee, which ensures and provides an enabling environment for students to meet the highest standard of professionalism.
“These are foundational values we need to be of service to humanity,” says Bruce.
Values of The Exceptional Nurse
Bruce herself embodies these values. She is a patron of TEN (The Exceptional Nurse) campaign, which envisages exceptional nursing care practised by compassionate, committed, competent and courageous professionals in every hospital and clinic in South Africa.
“If nurses are ‘the backbone’ of public health, why are they treated like the coccyx!” says Bruce indignantly, who decries the patriarchy and disrespect that persists, particularly between doctors and nurses.
Bruce can’t but help be immersed in the politics of nursing, stakeholders in which have recognised her expertise – she was previously appointed to the Ministerial Task Team on Nursing Education and Training, and was a member of the Standing Committee on Health of the Academy of Science of South Africa.
Nurses make up the largest cadre of healthcare workers and are essential for a strong and responsive health system. Bruce says it is high time to see a nurse in the role of Minister of Health.