Background: South Africa’s Community service nurses (CSN) programme requires nurses to serve in rural and undeserved areas. The programme is very relevant from developmental perspectives because it marks the first work experience for many nurses after graduation. It is also one of the key pillars to ensure the health provision in rural areas in South Africa. Still, systematic analysis about nurses’ experience is lacking.
Objectives: To review studies describing the experiences and support needs of newly graduated nurses during community service in South Africa; critique study research methods, describe outcomes, and make recommendations for future research and practice. In doing so recommended outcomes and support will be given to future community service nurses in South Africa.
Methods: The systematic review methods included searching, sifting, abstraction and quality assessment of relevant studies by two reviewers. Studies were evaluated for sampling methods design, threats to validity and outcomes.
Data source: Research studies from the inception of community service in South Africa (1991-2016), from Academic search complete, CINAHL, Cochrane, Pubmed, SABINET ScienceDirect, Scopus, Nexus and unpublished articles through Google Scholar.
Results: Ten studies met the inclusion criteria and were analysed in detail. The nurses’ experience can be characterised by these key themes: the positive experience of community service, the conflict of role change, integration of theory to practice, environmental challenges or overcrowding and staff shortages and the need for professional development. Reviewed studies generally had small samples and poor design.
Conclusions: Though the analysis identified positive experience(CSN found working with patient and family satisfying, they gained from being exposed to different institutional settings and lots more), the challenges prevailed and point to the need of more systematic support mechanisms during the service. In addition, more and more rigorous research is required to corroborate the emerging insights developed by this review.