“Nursing is regarded as one of the pillar professions in the health-care system and it is important that this service is accessible. The community needs to trust the health-care system enough to make use of it,” says Dr Julia Mafumo, Lecturer in the Department of Advanced Nursing Science at the University of Venda (Univen).
She believes that the University Staff Development Programme (USDP) is not only an opportunity for personal development, but that it will equip her to contribute to making health care accessible to every person who needs it.
Dr Mafumo was selected as one of the ten candidates in the USDP, administered by the University of the Free State Office for International Affairs. The project provides funding for clinicians in global health to achieve a PhD qualification.
Univen has a track record of developing academics who are competent to address global health challenges. In more than a decade of collaboration with the University of Virginia in the United States, these universities have successfully developed global health researchers, some of whom are internationally renowned scientists today.
“Besides networking with personnel from other institutions and learning from them, the USDP is a chance to receive mentorship from academics with a strong international leadership pedigree in global health. The personnel in the programme supported me throughout my academic journey.”
“Being nominated for the staff development programme came as a blessing to me and I am very grateful for the opportunity,” says Dr Mafumo, who shares in an interview what the USDP programme meant to her.
How has your background shaped the life and academic path that you have chosen?
I have always dreamt of pursuing a career in which I have the chance to share knowledge and information. When the University of Venda employed me, I took it as an opportunity to do just that.
My fulfilment comes from seeing a student who is competent and who can share the acquired knowledge and skills with the community at large.
What drew you to the USDP project’s call?
The financial support in the programme gave me the opportunity to tend to my research activities. Going to the University of Virginia in February 2020 gave me the opportunity to make friends, but also to attend data analysis and management workshops, which were helpful for my studies.
The university is well established and has many resources that we don’t have.
Please tell us more about your research
As a lecturer in the Department of Advanced Nursing Science, I felt that I had an obligation to ensure that health care was accessible to every person who needed it. In the rural areas where I am based, most people depend on public health services, as they are unemployed and living in poverty. Many people often die without visiting the health-care facilities, as they fear the lack of competence and negative attitudes reported in the media about the nurses.
In my work, I am developing guidelines to facilitate professional interpersonal skills for learners, so that when they graduate, they are competent and compassionate practitioners.
With competent and caring practitioners, communities throughout South Africa will have trust in the health-care system and make use of public health-care services, resulting in a decrease in complications and early loss of life.
Global health is one of the critical issues for the future of the human species, especially in Africa, where both infectious and non-communicable diseases threaten development. What will your project contribute to the field?
Globally, health care is a constitutional right, and every person is entitled to it. In many developing countries such as South Africa, non-communicable diseases are now major causes of morbidity and mortality, although they can be prevented and well managed.
The relationship between health-care workers and the community is important. If health-care practitioners are competent and compassionate, morbidity and mortality could be lessened, as services will be utilised where monitoring and early diagnosis are done.
What are your career plans for the future? How will a PhD qualification assist you in reaching these goals?
Now that I have finished my doctoral studies, I would like to develop as a researcher and publish articles. I would also like to present papers at conferences in order to share information with colleagues nationally and internationally.
Furthermore, I have also made plans to do what I love, to share knowledge and information; presenting workshops on the guidelines I developed to facilitate professional interpersonal skills for members in the nursing profession.
What is your advice for aspiring PhD candidates?
It is possible to achieve your dreams. With discipline, a positive attitude, and the support of supervisors, you have all you need to make your dream a reality.
Issued on the University of the Free State website