Losing four family members and his managerial job in one of the private hospitals in Durban did not stop Thobani Ngcobo from completing his Master’s Degree in Health Sciences at the Durban University of Technology (DUT) with great results. He was among one of the Faculty of Health Sciences top graduands who graduated at the DUT’s 2022 Virtual Autumn Graduation today, 13 May 2022.
The 47-year-old from eMsahweni at Amanzimtoti, Durban is extremely proud of himself for managing to complete his Master’s within a minimum period under trying conditions.
Ngcobo, a former Unit Manager in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit in one of the private hospital in Durban indicated that his journey was tough but he never gave up. His nursing career started in 2004 as a general nurse until he was promoted into management in 2014.
“As a manager, I had to deal with the fear of the staff getting infected and meeting my deadlines. Over and above that, I had to support the community as I was the COVID-19 convenor of my community at the time,” said Ngcobo.
In July 2021, alone, he shared that he lost four of his family members and the pressure mounted at work causing him to be psychologically affected.
“I ended up losing my job. My family and social life was equally disrupted. I had to be strong and learn new ways of dealing with the pressure and at some stage, I was ready to quit. The support I got from the university was unbelievable. Dr Vasie Naidoo and Professor Nokuthula Sibiya, my supervisors, would call every day to check up on me. I do not know if I would have finished this course in record time without their care and encouragement,” stated Ngcobo, expressing his gratitude to his supervisors for their support.
He further explained that when he started his journey with DUT and the Faculty of Health Sciences he was not sure if he could manage, but his supervisors, Dr Naidoo and Prof Sibiya reassured him. Ngcobo said his first submission of his work to his supervisors did not go well, he had to start afresh as he was not familiar with referencing. However, he said things got better with time and he managed to deal with the challenges of studying during the times of COVID-19.
His dissertation topic was: Leadership Practices of Nurse Unit Managers at a Selected Private Hospital Group in eThekwini District, KwaZulu-Natal. He said he chose this topic after observing the gaps between the senior nursing management and junior nursing management.
“My research journey was not smooth sailing, you will find resistance at times because the hospital management had a perception that researchers wanted to expose them, without them fully understanding the nature of research,” added Ngcobo.
His co-supervisor, Prof Sibiya who is DUT’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Teaching and Learning commended Ngcobo for his hard work and perseverance.
“Being a husband, a father and on the other side a full-time student without any source of income was emotionally draining for him. During his course of study, he also lost quite a number of close family members which was a double blow to him. Despite all these atrocities, he remained a diligent student who honoured all the tight timelines as a full-time student. It was a blessing to supervise a student of his calibre,” said Prof Sibiya.
Advising students wishing to pursue their Master’s, Ngcobo said: “Don’t ever think it is impossible. If you have the will to survive, you will defeat all odds and that is the key to success. There is no easy or nice way of starting a new journey. All you need, is to work closely with your supervisors, ask many questions in order to get as much information and knowledge from them. Like they always say, there are no stupid questions.”
He plans to do his PhD and if possible work for an institution where he will become a link between the institution and the clinical section of nursing.
Pictured: Thobani Ngcobo