Original Research

Performance management in primary healthcare: Nurses’ experiences

Cynthia Z. Madlabana, Inge Petersen
Curationis | Vol 43, No 1 | a2017 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/curationis.v43i1.2017 | © 2020 Cynthia Z. Madlabana, Inge Petersen | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 10 October 2018 | Published: 30 April 2020

About the author(s)

Cynthia Z. Madlabana, School of Applied Human Sciences, Discipline of Psychology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Inge Petersen, School of Applied Human Sciences, Discipline of Psychology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa


Background: The use of the performance management (PM) system is highly contested by public servants in South Africa, although its value as essential to the appraisal and management of staff is undeniable.

Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore nurses’ perceptions and experiences of the PM system at primary healthcare (PHC) facilities in relation to the current health system’s reforms.

Method: An exploratory, descriptive and qualitative design was utilised. Participants were selected through purposive sampling. A semi-structured interview tool was used to collect data from 18 nurses in four sub-districts of Dr. Kenneth Kaunda district in the North West province. Data were analysed through thematic analysis.

Results: The findings of this study confirmed that PM is implemented to some extent. However, various loopholes in its implementation threaten the accuracy and transparency of the system and leave it vulnerable to perceived organisational injustice and unfairness, with the objectivity of the system questioned. The limitations of the current PM system revealed by this study include (1) the lack of alignment with current health system reforms towards comprehensive and integrated care that demands person-centred care; (2) the system’s usefulness for career progression, performance improvement and rewarding exceptional performance.

Conclusion: Performance management is inadequately applied in PHC facilities at district level and needs to be realigned to include the appraisal of key attributes required for the current health system’s reforms towards comprehensive and integrated care, including the provision of person-centred care, which is central for responding adequately to South Africa’s changing disease profile towards multi-morbidity.


performance management; performance appraisals; human resources for health professional nurse; primary health care; national health insurance; integrated clinical services management; person-centred care


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