Nursing involves assisting ill, injured and weak people towards health and helping to relieve patients of pain and discomfort. It also involves curative, preventative, promotive and rehabilitative health care for families, communities and individuals.

There are two main categories of nursing, namely the registered or professional nurse and the enrolled nursing auxiliary.

Registered nurses or nursing sisters take patients’ blood pressures and temperatures. They take samples for laboratory tests. They administer medication and give patients injections. They put in and remove stitches; apply and change dressings on wounds. Nurses prepare patients for medical checkups and for operations. They may assist surgeons and anaesthetists during operations and obstetricians in maternity wards and act as midwives.

Nursing sisters also participate in activities such as supplying health guidance and counselling, and also the diagnosis, planning and execution of nursing strategies for patients.

There are three main categories of nursing, namely the registered or professional nurses, the enrolled nurse and the enrolled nursing auxiliary. All nurses, perform certain duties, particularly during training, but others’ responsibilities and work varies. All three categories register with the SA Nursing Council once they have completed their training.

Registered nurses: both degree and diploma students qualify as registered nurses. Once they have completed their training, they are referred to as nursing sisters. They are responsible for the supervision of enrolled nurses and nursing auxiliaries. Their duties include running a department or ward, keeping records of treatment and progress, advising doctors about a patient’s condition and receiving instructions regarding treatment as well as controlling supplies and equipment, materials and medicine. They may also be involved in the training of nursing students.

Enrolled nurses: perform nursing care within the limits of their qualifications under the supervision of a registered nurse.

Enrolled nursing auxiliaries: carry out basic nursing procedures and take care of patients on a less specialised level under the supervision of a registered nurse.

Areas of specialist nursing practice include: mental health nursing, midwifery, child health, aged care, cancer nursing, intensive care, operating theatre, community health, remote area nursing, research, management, education, and workplace health and safety. Career paths exist for nurses who have further education or have demonstrated advanced competency in an area of specialisation such as:

Clinical nurse consultants: are responsible for the coordination and delivery of complex care in a specific ward or department, or in community settings. They work, in collaboration with clinical nurses, to give direct nursing care to patients with complex care needs, facilitate staff development and undertake research.

Clinical nurse specialists: are registered nurses who have demonstrated competency in advanced practice or have developed competency in an area of specialisation.

Community health nurses: work in the wider community, providing nursing care, health counselling, health forums and group programmes to individuals, families and groups. They may develop and facilitate community development programmes with a health promotion focus.

Mental Health Nurses: provide nursing care to patients with mental and emotional problems who are undergoing treatment and support in hospitals, clinics, community settings or private homes.

Midwives: provide care and advice to women during pregnancy, labour and birth, and post-natal care for women and babies. Midwives must be authorised to practise by their relevant State registering authority.

Nurse educators: assist in the design, implementation and assessment of educational programmes and the delivery of education and staff development programmes, and also manage educational resources.

Nurse managers: are responsible for the effective management of staffing and financial resources enabling the provision of safe, cost-effective nursing care within a specified field or across an entire hospital or health service.

Nurse researchers conduct research into nursing issues.

Nursing Auxiliaries perform basic nursing tasks under the supervision of a registered nurse. They carry out nursing procedures on a less specialised level than registered nurses. They take care of the ill, injured and weak and are involved in health guidance and counselling. They form part of a team of professional workers such as nurses, doctors and other medical personnel. Nursing Auxiliaries usually work in hospitals, clinics and health care centres such as old-age homes.


  • hospitals and clinics

  • government departments

  • South African Defence Force

  • health and welfare organisations

  • municipalities

  • medical doctors

  • industrial organisations

  • nursing agencies

  • self-employment as private nurse

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation or part-time work in a hospital

  • take a first aid course

  • arrange to speak to a nurse about this career


Abot College of Health Sciences and Technology, Adventist University of Central Africa, Africa University, Aga Khan University, Aga Khan University (Tanzania), Alliance International University, Anglican University College of Technology, Bamalete Lutheran School of Nursing, Bimaks College of Business and Health Sciences, Bishop Stuart Universities, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, Catholic University of Health and Allied Sciences, Catholic University of Rwanda, Christian Service University College, Chuka University, Deborah Retief Memorial School of Nursing/Institute of Health Sciences/ Kanye Seventh Day Adventist College of Nursing, Dedan Kimathi University of Technology, Egerton University, Embu University College, Empilweni Education, Garden City University College, Ghana Christian University College, Gideon Roberts University, Great Lakes University of Kisumu, Healthnicon SA, Hubert Kairuki Memorial University, Kabarak University, Kenya Methodist University, Kenyatta University, Kibogora Polytechnic, Knutsford University College, Life Healthcare Group, Lira University, Lusaka Apex Medical University, Makerere University, Malawi College of Health Sciences, Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology, Mediclinic, Meru University of Science and Technology, Moi University, Mount Kenya University, Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Mulungushi University, Muni University, Mzuzu University, National University of Lesotho, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, North-West University, Presbyterian University College, Pwani University College, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, South Eastern Kenya University, Texila American University, Tshwane University of Technology, Uganda Christian University, Umma University, University of Botswana, University of Cape Coast, University of Eastern Africa Baraton, University of Fort Hare, University of Gitwe, University of Johannesburg, University of Kabianga, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University of Limpopo, University of Nairobi, University of Namibia, University of Pretoria, University of Rwanda, University of Swaziland, University of the Free State, University of the Western Cape, University of the Witwatersrand, University of Zambia, Uzima University College, Valley View University, Victoria University, Walter Sisulu University, Welwitchia Health Training Centre, Zimbabwe Open University


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