"Welcome to all who are my friends and special in the lives of other children in hospital. May you learn new things here and come back to us renewed and energised and continue to give life to many."
These were the words of welcome from 14-year-old Elandri, who receives on-going care at the Red Cross Children's War Memorial Hospital in Cape Town, to conference delegates attending South Africa's first ever children's nursing conference. The Building Children's Nursing for Africa conference was hosted by the Child Nurse Practice Development Initiative, in the UCT School of Child and Adolescent Health, last month.
This landmark event, held in collaboration with the Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, drew over 140 nurses and other health care practitioners from across Africa, as well as representatives from the United Kingdom and Madagascar.
Conference presentations, delivered over the course of three full days, focussed on acknowledging and sustaining both extant and future nurse-led research initiatives in Africa, to expand the data base on best available evidence for child nursing practice on the continent.
The conference also put the spotlight on nurses' crucial role in achieving best outcomes for neonatal, paediatric and paediatric critical care patients receiving care in and out of hospital and/or clinical settings. Here, nursing interventions that had made measurable differences in outcomes, most notably by a significant decrease in child morbidity and mortality, were described.
The Head of Department of Paediatrics and Child Health at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, Professor Heather Zar, opened proceedings with a sobering reminder of the still "unacceptably high" under five death rates in Africa, listing preventable and treatable diseases such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria as the leading causes for high rates of child mortality.
Zar said nursing services continued to be "the backbone of child health in Africa" and pointed to the major role that nurses have to play in addressing child health care challenges, through continued informing of practice, sufficient guidance in nursing education and training and through sustained, nurse-led research.
In an opening plenary on the current state of child health care in South Africa, Emeritus Professor Marian Jacobs, former Dean of Health Sciences at UCT, extended congratulations to the conference organisers for what she called "a landmark event for the African continent" and "a significant moment for nurses across the globe".
Jacobs went on to highlight existing discrepancies in health care provision for children across different socio-economic and geographical backgrounds in South Africa and issued a challenge for children's nurses to become more involved in advocacy and national health policy development.
She specifically encouraged nurses' increased involvement in the development of South Africa's National Health Insurance policy, in order to effectively advocate for children's health care needs.
Jacob's challenge was well received, with many delegates signing up to join a task team for child health advocacy directly after the morning's plenaries.
The importance of nurse-conducted clinical research, and the better pursuit and conceptualisation of nursing science, was addressed by guest speaker, Associate Professor Mavilde Pedreira, from the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil.
Pedreira reminded nurse delegates that best care was based on best available evidence gleaned from rigorous clinical research, and that nurses were integral to practice improvement in health care settings, while they strove "to do the right things at the right moments" on behalf of their young patients.
Associate Professor Minette Coetzee, head of the Child Nurse Practice Development Initiative and the team who hosted the conference, says that the call to conduct research that strengthens bedside nursing care was an exciting theme of the conference.
"This was well aligned with the numerous papers that explored the emerging neuroscience and understanding of how infants and small children manage and heal in complex ways that are inexorably linked to the presence of their mothers and primary care givers."
She feels that a strong call now echoes amongst conference delegates that encourages them to avoid separating infants and small children from their mothers during health care encounters and periods of hospitalisation, so as to secure better health outcomes for them in the long-term.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Please view the republishing articles page for more information.