A boost for nurses

Lack of qualified human resources in the African healthcare arena continues to hinder poverty reduction and development, opening up further potential for computer-based learning models on the continent.

A case in point is Kenya, where almost 90% of the country’s nurses are trained at the lowest ‘enrolled” status. Yet, given that less than 10% of Kenya’s health workers are doctors, nurses are the backbone of the country’s healthcare system.

In 2001, the Nursing Council of Kenya approached the African Medical Research Foundation (Amref) to help it upgrade 20 000 enrolled nurses to registered level. But there was capacity to train only 100 nurses a year using traditional classroom methods. As a result, the council opted for distance learning.

Amref is an international health and research organisation, founded in 1957, with headquarters in Nairobi. It works to strengthen healthcare systems across Africa.

In 2004, Amref began developing a curriculum to upgrade nurses, using a paper-based distance learning model. A year later, consulting firm Accenture pledged $3-million in funds and technical assistance to convert the printed course materials into electronic versions. The course can now be accomplished in one year instead of two.

The e-Learning programme is a public-private partnership between the nursing council; Amref; Accenture; the health ministry; and medical training colleges and nursing schools.

To date, computers, software and printers have been installed in 75 hospitals and school-based training centres. In the wake of the successful 2005 pilot project, more than 4 000 nurses have since been enrolled.

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David Jackson
Guest Author

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