Adapt or Sink: Exploring the Nurse Educator-Student Relationship in Democratic South Africa

Monday, 28 July 2014: 9:10 AM

Theresa Sheila Mokoboto-Zwane, PhD, MCur, BCur IetA, RN, RM
Department of Health Studies, University of South Africa (UNISA), Pretoria, South Africa


The purpose of this presentation is to provide insight into the nurse educator-nursing student relationship by describing their lived experience of interacting with one another in a large nursing college within the context of a new democratic dispensation in South Africa, and to urge policymakers in the nursing education system to introduce policies and programmes that promote adaptation to changes brought about by the socio-economic and political climate.


A qualitative study was conducted in a large nursing college in South Africa. Data was collected utilizing in-depth phenomenological interviews which were transcribed and analysed using Tesch’s method. A protocol was designed and given to an independent coder who is doctorally qualified in qualitative studies, with a request to also analyse the data, using the same method.

A purposive method was used for sampling participants. Because of the sensitive nature of the phenomenon under study, in addition, snowball sampling was also used to allow participants to suggest other willing participants who met the criteria. The size of the sample depended on saturation of the data. Data satuaration was reached after 19 participants were interviewed, 10 nurse educators and 9 nursing students.

Ethical rigor was ensured by obtaining approval from the Research Ethics Committee, the Hierarchy and Management of Nursing College concerned, as well as informed consent from individual participants following a briefing session which focused on beneficence, respect for human dignity and justice.

A pilot interview was conducted first using the following central question for students: "Please describe to me how you experience relationship with your nurse educators, based on your interaction with them," and for nurse educators: "Please describe to me how you experience relationship with your students, based on your interaction with them."


The two groups of participants provided rich, dense and detailed accounts of their experiences of interacting with one another and their relationships. These were grouped into two main categories, namely Facilitative Elements and Stumbling Blocks. Within the Facilitative Elements were Positive Interaction and Positive Feelings, whilst Stumbling Blocks entailed what was perceived as Negative Interaction and Negative Feelings. A third category was identified as Variable, where participants reported a mixture of both positive and negative experiences. Findings reflected positive relationships experienced by the majority of nursing students, with a few reporting negative experiences. These largely positive relationships are a product of positive interaction, and concomitant positive feelings. Similarly, negative relationships were found to be a product of negative interaction and concomitant negative feelings between these two groups. Nurse educators on the other hand, also enjoyed positive relationships with their students. A few highlighted that their relationship with students was sometimes variable


Nurse educators should provide opportunities for professional and personal time with their students, and trust them enough to include them in decision-making. They should also make time to understand the evolving politics and dynamics in the country and integrate these in the teaching programs. Policymakers should review the preparation and evaluation of nurse educators in line with the political and socio-economic changes that are taking place in the country. They should consider in-service training and workshops that lead to higher levels of student satisfaction. To increase job satisfaction and fulfilment, they should also provide support programmes that include mentoring and coaching for nurse educators.