Meet Groote Schuur’s new head nurse

Head of nursing at Groote Schuur Hospital, Achmat Mohammed, is passionate about promoting nursing leadership and innovation.

Woodstock resident, Achmat Mohammed is the new face at the helm of nursing at Groote Schuur Hospital.

Mr Mohammed took over the head nursing job on Tuesday November 1 and will oversee a staff complement of close to 1 600 nurses.

He has amassed close to 20 years of experience and is ready to take his beloved profession to greater heights.

He is quick to debunk the misconception that nursing is a female dominated profession. “Things have changed drastically in South Africa. Male nurses are more visible. Globally male nurses are making their mark in the industry and I believe we will get there,” he said.

“Nurses are the backbone of any healthcare system, however, they are very often overlooked. I believe we are all nurses in some way or the other. Being sympathetic, supportive, caring and empathetic are all forms of nursing.

Mr Mohammed comes from humble beginnings in Manenberg and said his dream of becoming a doctor motivated him to do well at school. “When I was a teenager my grandmother became ill and a district nurse would come to our house to look after her. I was very impressed with how the nurse interacted with my grandparents. When I started Grade 9, I was sold on becoming a nurse.”

Mr Mohammed said he would peek out of the window of his grandparents’ house in Vistula Road, Manenberg, and watch sisters Shahieda and Aneesa, who lived next door, leave for work.

“People used to admire them. Back in the day, nurses were very well respected and I aspired to becoming that type of individual. Nurses do a lot and the community don’t realise their impact. When I look back, I know I made the best decision because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives and I believe I have,” he said.

After completing matric, at Manenberg High School in 1993, he went to work for a year to support his family. In 1995 he went to study at the then Nico Malan Nursing College in Athlone, now known as the Western Cape College of Nursing, and graduated after completing a four-year general nursing diploma. “I did psychiatric and general nursing as well as midwifery. After I qualified, I worked in the paediatric cardiac intensive care unit at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital. I worked with babies who had massive heart operations. I loved it; I had to grow up very fast because you learn to take responsibility for someone else’s life,” he said.

To attain his goals, he resigned and worked in the community health sector which enabled him to study further at Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) in Bellville. “I then started at Woodstock Community Health Centre and went on to manage their satellite psychiatric clinics in Woodstock, Maitland and Kensington,” he said.

Following that, Mr Mohammed was approached to become the facility manager of Green Point Community Health Centre in the early 2000s.

“I stayed there for two years and I was then asked to start as the facility manager at Brooklyn Community Health Centre in 2002. Following that, I went to Dublin, Ireland, in 2004 and worked in the medical ward at the well-renowned St James Hospital. I loved it so much that instead of staying for two years I ended up staying for 11 years,” he said.

Before he left for Ireland, he obtained a postgraduate diploma in nursing management; a certificate in primary clinical skills, a certificate in pharmacology and a postgraduate certificate in education from Stellenbosch University.

Mr Mohammed was then given the opportunity work as a clinical nurse manager 1 at St James Hospital.

“When I got to Ireland I obtained a BSc in Nursing from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland. After that, I was promoted to a clinical nurse manager 3 position which enabled me to complete my Master’s degree in creative leadership,” he said.

He returned to South Africa in 2011 after his father Sedick fell ill. “I literally spent one week with him and he passed away at the age of 57. It’s good to be back in South Africa and to be surrounded by my family ,” he said.

He then worked as the head of nursing at Melomed Hospital in Gatesville on his return to South Africa. “It was a huge learning curve for me as it was a private facility. However, they allowed me to be both creative and innovative,” he said.

Mr Mohammed said his love for the velocity of big hospitals led him to apply for his current position. “I was attracted to the innovative developments at Groote Schuur. Now I am able to apply my 21 years of international, local and private healthcare experience to this job. You can put me in front of management and I will be able to walk the walk and talk the talk,” he said.

His advises the youth in a few well-chosen words: “You can grow up in trying circumstances but you have to educate yourself. You can’t blame the area you grew up in. I believe there are many opportunities out there and you young people need to grab it.”

He said Manenberg will always hold a special place in his heart and he wants to show young people that, “if I can do it, you can do it.” “We struggled while growing up as my father was a plasterer and the sole breadwinner. My parents gave us the best and I will be forever grateful. My mom is a great inspiration to me. She has been through a lot and managed to care for her family and keep her four children together.”

He spoke to the Tatler about his vision for Groote Schuur Hospital: “It takes a special kind of person to be a nurse. Qualities like sympathy and empathy are vital in this line of work. Our communities, are going through tough times. People are being raped, abused and it’s normally the nurses who can (start to) remedy that by just talking to the patients. Nurses deal with complicated machinery and I don’t think the community know that. Nursing is a developing profession and technology is expanding. Nurses are the ones who contribute to these advents in technology as they collect and collate data as well as interview patients. I want to promote a culture of learning among the multi-disciplinary team at the hospital and develop nursing leadership and creativity,” he said.