The discipline is recognized for its innovative educational programmes, its research activities, its extensive work in Africa, and its international network of scholars. There are five (5) major focus areas of research within the School, viz. HIV/AIDS care; psycho-social rehabilitation; community health promotion; innovative teaching and learning; critical care and traumamanagement.
The vision of the discipline is to establish itself as a centre of excellence in Nursing and Midwifery education in Africa and the rest of the World.
The discipline’s mission is to contribute to the development of Regional, National and International Communities of health professionals and scholars by extending the boundaries of knowledge through innovative research and education; transferring such knowledge into health care practice in a dynamic and diverse society.
From humble beginnings, with the introduction of the advanced diploma in nursing education at the then University of Natal in 1956, to the admission of the first 10 students in 1962 for the BSoc Sc degree in nursing, the School of Nursing on the Howard College campus of the University has prospered and now has about 1750 students in it’s undergraduate degrees and diploma programmes and about 90 students in it’s postgraduate programmes.
The first Professional Chair in the Department of Nursing at the University was appointed in 1971. Academics at the School played a significant role lobbying for equal education for the training of African nurses and in 1988 the first African academic was appointed. Well known for it’s pioneering community based education projects, the School has earned a reputation both nationally and internationally, for academic rigour and innovative leadership.
Following the merger of the Universities of Natal and Durban-Westville in 2004, the School of Nursing became one of six schools in the Faculty of Health Sciences. The diverse and relevant suite of postgraduate programmes reflect the training needs of South Africa and indeed the African continent.
As a World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Nursing and Midwifery Development in the African Region, awarded for the first time in 1999 and again in 2003, the School has been elevated into a position of continental leadership. Further advances took place in 2002 when the School was designated the South Africa Joanna Briggs Institute (JBI) Collaborating Centre for evidence based nursing. With this elevation of the School’s international profile, the School has become deeply involved in a series of eminent local, national and international projects.
The Uthukela Partnership for Health links the School with district health providers within the Child Survival Project and adolescent initiatives. The health issues of rural women are the focus of a project in partnership with the Provincial Department of Health and the School of Nursing at McMaster University.
Curriculum developments and nursing education consultancy in ongoing between the School and Health educational institutions in the United Arab Emirates, Rwanda, Eritrea, Niger, Lesotho, Swaziland, Burundi and two east African countries – Tanzania and Kenya.
In addition to these, the School’s search for international collaboration has attracted partnerships within the general context of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. Working with the University of California, San Francisco and SANNAM, the School in engaged in a five year project on perceived AIDS stigma. The influence of pregnancy in the progression of HIV/AIDS in HIV positive women is the subject of s partnership with the Universities of California and Johns Hopkins, while research into the adherence to tuberculosis and antiretroviral medications in South Africa continues in vigorous collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Health Professionals. The School of Nursing enjoys good working relationships with other international partners with whom Memoranda Of Understanding have been signed for collaboration. In 2005, these include Horschule Bremen University of Applied Sciences, in Germany, Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and the School of Health and Social Care, Jyväskylä Polytechnic (Jypoly) in Finland.