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Computer usage among nurses in rural health-care facilities in South Africa: obstacles and challenges



    1. Researcher, Centre for Rural Health, College of Health Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
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Flora Asah
4th Floor
George Campbell Building
Howard College Campus
Durban 4001
South Africa


Aims  This study discusses factors inhibiting computer usage for work-related tasks among computer-literate professional nurses within rural healthcare facilities in South Africa.

Background  In the past two decades computer literacy courses have not been part of the nursing curricula. Computer courses are offered by the State Information Technology Agency. Despite this, there seems to be limited use of computers by professional nurses in the rural context.

Methods  Focus group interviews held with 40 professional nurses from three government hospitals in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

Results  Contributing factors were found to be lack of information technology infrastructure, restricted access to computers and deficits in regard to the technical and nursing management support. The physical location of computers within the health-care facilities and lack of relevant software emerged as specific obstacles to usage.

Conclusion  Provision of continuous and active support from nursing management could positively influence computer usage among professional nurses. A closer integration of information technology and computer literacy skills into existing nursing curricula would foster a positive attitude towards computer usage through early exposure.

Implications for nursing management  Responses indicated that change of mindset may be needed on the part of nursing management so that they begin to actively promote ready access to computers as a means of creating greater professionalism and collegiality.