Honouring Nurses on International Nurses Day

Bridging the Gap: Honouring Nurses on International Nurses Day 2024

“Our Nurses. Our Future. The economic power of care.”

As we celebrate International Nurses Day this year, the theme “Our Nurses. Our Future. The economic power of care.” resonates deeply, urging us to reflect on the invaluable contribution of nurses and the critical role they play in shaping our collective well-being. However, amidst the celebration, it’s imperative to acknowledge the disparities between the ideal represented in this theme and the stark realities faced by nurses, particularly in the South African context.

Backbone of healthcare

Nurses are the backbone of healthcare systems globally, and South Africa is no exception. They are at the forefront of patient care, often working tirelessly to deliver essential services, provide comfort, and advocate for the health and dignity of all individuals. Yet, despite their indispensable role, nurses in South Africa, like many parts of the world, confront numerous challenges that hinder their ability to thrive personally and professionally.

Multitude of barriers and challenges

One of the primary issues facing nurses in South Africa is the persistent understaffing and overwhelming workloads. According to the South African Nursing Council (SANC), there is an alarming shortage of nurses in the country, with the nurse-to-patient ratio falling far below the recommended standards set by the World Health Organization (WHO). This shortage not only compromises the quality of patient care but also places immense pressure on the existing nursing workforce, leading to burnout, stress, and decreased job satisfaction.

Furthermore, nurses in South Africa often grapple with inadequate resources and infrastructure in healthcare facilities. From shortages of essential medical supplies to outdated equipment, these challenges impede nurses’ ability to deliver optimal care and contribute to a sense of frustration and disillusionment among healthcare professionals. The lack of investment in healthcare infrastructure perpetuates disparities in access to quality healthcare, particularly in underserved rural areas where resources are scarce.


Additionally, the issue of unequal distribution of healthcare professionals exacerbates disparities in healthcare access and outcomes across different regions of South Africa. Rural and remote areas bear the brunt of this disparity, with many communities facing limited access to healthcare services due to a shortage of healthcare professionals, including nurses. As a result, residents in these areas often experience barriers to receiving timely and adequate healthcare, contributing to poorer health outcomes and widening the gap between urban and rural healthcare delivery.

Moreover, the economic realities faced by nurses in South Africa underscore the urgent need for systemic reforms to recognize and remunerate their invaluable contributions adequately. Despite their critical role in healthcare delivery, nurses in South Africa often endure low wages, inadequate benefits, and limited opportunities for career advancement. Many nurses are forced to take on multiple jobs or work overtime to make ends meet, leading to physical and mental exhaustion and detracting from their ability to provide quality care.

Facing the challenges head-on

Addressing these disparities and advancing the economic power of care requires a multi-faceted approach that prioritizes investment in nursing education, training, and workforce development. It is imperative for policymakers to allocate sufficient resources towards recruiting and retaining nurses, particularly in underserved areas, and to create supportive working environments that enable nurses to thrive and fulfil their professional potential.

Furthermore, there is a pressing need to address the systemic issues that contribute to the undervaluation of nursing as a profession. This includes advocating for fair and equitable compensation for nurses, enhancing professional development opportunities, and promoting policies that recognize the holistic nature of nursing care and its economic value to society.


On this International Nurses Day, let us honour the dedication, compassion, and resilience of nurses in South Africa and around the world. Let us reaffirm our commitment to supporting nurses in their vital role as champions of health and advocates for social justice. Together, let us work towards a future where the economic power of care is recognized, valued, and celebrated, ensuring a brighter and healthier future for all.


  1. South African Nursing Council. (2023). Annual Report. Retrieved from https://www.sanc.co.za/2022-2023-annual-report/
  2. World Health Organization. (2022). State of the World’s Nursing Report. Retrieved from https://media.nurse.org/docs/State+of+Nursing+-+2022.pdf
  3. National Department of Health, South Africa. (2021). Human Resources for Health South Africa.
  4. South African Medical Association. (2022). Health Care in South Africa: Challenges and Solutions.