Competencies for structured professional development of neonatal nurses in South Africa

M Scheepers, C Maree, E S Janse van Rensburg


Background. The unpredictability of any illness at birth, and recovery from such an illness after birth, create challenges for nurses involved in neonatal care, and require competent nurses in the period following birth in both resource-limited and technologically advanced contexts. Neonatal nursing emerged worldwide as a nursing specialty over the last five decades to meet these challenges through in-depth knowledge of healthy, preterm and ill neonates. There is a high demand for neonatal nurses to lower neonatal mortality and morbidity, negative media exposure and litigation.

Objectives. To reflect on a competency framework for nurses in neonatal practice to enhance professional development that is context specific.

Methods. A competency framework for nurses involved in neonatal practice was developed and validated through nominal group techniques, literature control and Delphi techniques.

Results. Although nurse training is done at tertiary education institutions, there is a gap in ensuring consistencies in clinical performance and professional development from novice to expert, especially in a field such as neonatal care. Professional development can enhance the standard of neonatal care, especially if linked to competencies that are specific to the neonatal context.

Conclusion. A competency framework has an important role to play in equipping nurses in neonatal practice with the knowledge and skills required to reduce the persistent neonatal mortality and morbidity rates in South Africa.

Authors' affiliations

M Scheepers, Life College of Learning, Life Healthcare, Illovo, Johannesburg, South Africa

C Maree, Department of Nursing Science, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria, South Africa

E S Janse van Rensburg, Department of Health Studies, School of Social Sciences, College of Human Sciences, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa

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Cite this article

African Journal of Health Professions Education 2020;12(3):154-160. DOI:10.7196/AJHPE.2020.v12i3.1364

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-10-16
Date published: 2020-10-16

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