Nursing is one of the most honourable professions, and nurses are the heart and soul of the healthcare system. During a recent international poll nurses were ranked as having the second most important job, after doctors. Nurses are on the frontlines of administering and evaluating patients’ treatment, but beyond that nurses also provide invaluable emotional support.
It is vital therefore that we also provide them with as much support as possible. The University of the Western Cape recently conducted an innovative study, taking a bunch of newly-graduated student nurses, and grouping them together in a WhatsApp support group. And according to researchers Professors Felicity Daniels and Jennifer Chipps, the nurses on the group became better and more confident nurses for it.
Daniels says after completing nursing training, transitioning into practice can be exciting, but also challenging and traumatic. She says a period of additional support is essential to help these nurses settle into their new roles and responsibilities – and one effective way of finding that support is through a tool students use practically every day: WhatsApp.
For the study, a total of 63 newly-graduated nurses in community service were purposively selected, divided into rural and urban groups, and participated in a three-month support group based on identified needs.
Daniels says participating in the group was a positive experience for many nurses, especially for the ones who worked in remote and rural areas, where support and resources were not readily available.
During the three month period the researchers found that the nurses had gained resilience and confidence by being connected with colleagues from school, and they recommend that this group should be continuously used in supporting new nurses.
The great news is that the experience gained from this first intervention has informed the development of a new, WhatsApp-based transition curriculum to empower new nursing graduates. This online transitioning programme is currently being piloted, and will be researched in the form of a larger-scale intervention at the beginning of 2019.
By empowering nurses, especially in rural areas, their study-to-work transitions can become so much more rewarding, both for the nurses and the communities they serve. For a healthier nation, we need to look to our nurses, and provide them with the necessary support. And social media is emerging as an important tool to help nurses achieve this goal.