Leading up to International Women’s Day on 8 March, we’re sharing the stories of many womxn researchers working in ASSET. Today Dr Ruwayda Petrus shares her journey by answering a few questions.

Dr Ruwayda Petrus

How did you become interested in research?
Being a curious young mind; I have always wanted to know why things were the way they were. I had a need to understand myself and the world around me. Research allows one to do just that. Explore and understand why certain phenomena occur; it helps one to find answers to problems (sometimes) and for the most part focuses on bringing about positive change. This is what drew me to psychology and most importantly research.

Describe your research career thus far?
I worked on several projects with amazingly talented researchers. I started as a research assistant and during this time wore several hats which allowed me to learn as much about the practice and management of research. I have been involved in various research projects at the Centre for Rural Health at the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal which focused on health system strengthening interventions for low- and middle-income countries. Part of my role was to develop a clinical communications skills training program for professional nurses working in primary health care facilities in the North-West Province in South Africa. I completed my PhD in 2017 and am currently a postdoc fellow with the DRILL program as part of the mental health track. My PhD sought to understand and assess the wellbeing of nurses in the context of the re-engineered primary health care and national health insurance systems and i used a mixed methods approach. My post doc research focuses on the emotional coping skills of nurses working in PHC.
Why do you think research in your field is important?
Often new policies and procedures are introduced in health care settings which seek to benefit the end user – the patient; however as much as there is a need to shift to person-centred care to improve the experience of care and health outcomes; one cannot ignore the provider in this equation. Healthcare workers and especially nurses often ignore their own mental health and emotional needs in order to care for their patients and if we hope to retain and recruit healthcare workers to the public sector; we need to focus on how to care for the caregiver.
What is one thing you want to see changed between now and this time next year?

The past year has shown us that we still have a lot of work to do in terms of overcoming our internal biases and prejudices. My hope would be that we all reflect on our experiences, our biases, prejudices and treatment of others so that we can move towards creating a better; more just and equitable society for all.