E-learning boosts medical training

The Observer -  July 3rd, 2014

As a midwife in Entebbe hospital, Sarah Achom delights in delivering mothers and ensuring that they and their babies are fine. It is, she says, something she does on a daily basis.

Haste and carefulness are Achom’s daily companions. In her snow-white dress complete with a blue apron, she moves about the hospital’s private maternity ward, examining expectant mothers and ensuring a suitable delivery environment.

“For the six hours that I work daily, I deliver about two mothers. But while I was still in the general maternity ward, I would sometimes deliver up to six,” says Achom.

It is this skill, agility and unwavering commitment to excellence that made Achom to be selected as one of the pioneer students of a groundbreaking learning programme in Uganda’s medical education history. In 2012, [Amref Health Africa] launched its e-Learning project, which would allow medical workers like Achom to get further education without leaving their work stations.

In a country where the number of patients outmatches the number of nurses and midwives by a whopping tenfold, becoming a mother in Uganda might pass as a matter of life and death. The Uganda Nurses and Midwives Union (UNMU) says that on average, the ratio of a nurse/midwife to patients is 1: 3,000. The recommended standard by the World Health Organization is 1:5 for nurses and 1:4 for midwives.

According to Uganda’s 2011 Demographic and Health Survey, the maternal mortality rate stands at 438 deaths per 100,000 while neonatal deaths stand at 90 per 1,000 live births.

“Dampening the situation further is the fact that 11,000 midwives and nurses need training to be registered as professionals and 58 per cent of women deliver without the help of a midwife,” says Janet Obuni, president of UNMU.

Amid such dark statistics, [Amref Health Africa’s] e-Learning project is a huge silver lining, allowing serving nurses and midwives to upgrade to diploma level.

About the project

In many health facilities across the country, information technology is often considered a management tool and not a resource for clinical care. This is attributed to the limited computer knowledge and computers among health workers. In effect, Amref Health Africa launched the e-Learning project in 2010 after its documented success in Nairobi, Kenya.

It was first piloted in Arua School of Comprehensive Nursing, Masaka, Mengo and Nsambya schools of comprehensive nursing and midwifery. Today, it has been implemented in 10 institutions countrywide, including Mulago School of Nursing, Lira and Jinja schools of comprehensive nursing, and the Public Health Nurses College in Kyambogo.

Enrolled nurses and midwives receive a continuum of training, including diagnosis of diseases, care for newborn babies, management of labour and its complications, growth and development of a child and provision of adolescent-friendly services, among others.  Electronic learning (e-learning) refers to learning delivered using electronic means through internet, intranet or CD-ROM to access the education curriculum outside of a traditional classroom.

To make this viable, [Amref Health Africa] has established e-centres, equipped with desktop computers at students’ workplaces. In their first semester of study, students interface with tutors, mentors and IT trainers to acquaint themselves on how to use computers, access course material and how they will be supervised.

Read more of this article on the Observer website: E-learning boosts medical training

Like many sub-Saharan countries, Kenya is struggling with a critical shortage of qualified nurses. And, they are only able to train 100 nurses per year using the traditional, classroom based learning. Amref Health Africa helped the Nursing Council of Kenya create an e-learning curriculum to upgrade 20,000 nurses from certificate to registered level. After completing the program, nurses are qualified to treat major diseases, such as HIV/AIDS, TB, and malaria - and thus saving lives.

Read more about our work training healthworkers.

In recent years, the computer and mobile phones have joined the airplane as the tools of choice to bring modern health care to remote rural hospitals in Africa.

Using a camera, a mobile phone and internet-connected computers, Amref Health Africa consultants are able to advise doctors in rural hospitals on how to handle difficult medical cases.

Watch a video on CNN about the transformation this innovation has on patients and medical providers in rural hospitals.