Back to Basics Nurse Training with Dr Antonia Mentel

Back to Basics: Empowering Nurses Through Education

April 2024
Volunteer story

Tshemba believes that education is the cornerstone of quality healthcare, as it empowers healthcare professionals and improves patient care. Therefore, it is part of our mission to enhance the skills and knowledge of local healthcare professionals at Tintswalo Hospital, which contributes towards strengthening local capacity.One of our cornerstone educational programs is the Back to Basics training program.

Our journey began with much brainstorming about how our medical volunteers could show the nurses how much they were appreciated and needed.  We realized that there was little formal, regular training of nurses alongside a noticeable gap in clinical knowledge and practice, especially in the reasons for regular patient vital sign observations like BP, and temperature for patients in the wards. This prompted us to take action.

Dr Ewan Mclellan gives nurses their rewards

Collaboration was key. Working alongside Sr Connie Mthombeni, the nurse in charge of nurse training, we identified critical topics and created an annual curriculum, which has 20modules, taught by our volunteers. This partnership was instrumental in tailoring the program to the specific needs of the nurses in the surgical and medical wars. We have also developed a reward program for nurses, to encourage them to continue. Completion of each module gets them small motivational rewards, such as pens, notebooks, mugs, and t-shirts for example. Of course, the greatest motivator of all has been the enhancement of their clinical skills.   

The enthusiasm and engagement of the nurses are the driving forces behind the success of our project. Their willingness to participate, ask questions, and engage in discussions has enriched the learning experience and fostered a collaborative environment.

However, our journey is not without hurdles. These included working out how to train as many nurses as possible despite challenging shift systems, rotation of nurses between wards, other wards wanting the training and developing presentations aimed at the correct level and reflecting the resources available at this district hospital. But through flexibility and perseverance, we are navigating these obstacles. So far, we are proud to have trained 60 nurses. Our goal is to train all 300 nurses in the hospital as we hope that they will all rotate into the surgical and medical wards at some stage and in wards where they don’t rotate such as paeds, we will run an adapted programme.  We’d also love to extend the programme into the clinics.

Nurses after training


As we focus on our aim, which is to enhance the quality of care they provide, we've seen promising results already with improvements in vital sign monitoring and reporting. We are committed to continue building partnerships between nurses and Tshemba volunteers, fostering a supportive learning environment.  Our volunteers love doing this training – every week four of them arrive at 7 am on a Thursday morning, often with baked goods for their nurses, and run a session each in four wards!  We call them the ‘Back to Basics Club).Returning volunteers have commented that nursing care has improved since their last visit!

The aim is to increase the number of practical sessions and regular updates to ensure the curriculum remains relevant. We're also exploring ways to measure the impact of our training on clinical practice, recognizing that change may be gradual.


Story by Lisa Dickens