Nursing as a vehicle for improving child health: A SickKids-Ghana Partnership
For the past five years, the Centre for Global Child Health at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and Ghanaian partners have been working together to build the necessary capacity for a high-quality, sustainable, national paediatric nursing education program in Ghana to help bridge the gap.
Nurses make up half of the world’s health workforce. They are critical to providing care and improving access to health services for children and their families, especially in lower income countries. But prior to SickKids’ partnerships in Ghana, very few nurses in Ghana had been trained to provide the specific care that sick children need.
Helping improve newborn and child health
The ultimate goal of the SickKids-Ghana partnership has been to train knowledgeable, confident and clinically competent paediatric nurses to help reduce the mortality rate of newborns and children and improve their health and wellbeing, while also elevating the status and profile of paediatric nursing in Ghana’s health system. Although mortality rates have improved over the years, an estimated 51,000 newborns and children still die every year in Ghana, mainly from preventable and treatable causes.
Building on the success of the 2009-2014 SickKids-Ghana Paediatric Nursing Training Program, which trained over 220 paediatric nurses, the SickKids-Ghana Paediatric Nursing Education Partnership (PNEP) launched in 2015 in order to scale up paediatric nursing education across the entire country. Over PNEP’s five years, PNEP was very successful and trained an additional 501 paediatric nurses through a one-year training program across three education sites (established through PNEP) operated by the local partner – the Ghana College of Nurses and Midwives. These nurses came from more than 200 health facilities across all 16 regions of Ghana to ensure millions of Ghanaian children would have access to high-quality paediatric nurses. More than 99 per cent of the nurses have re-integrated into Ghana’s health system, with more than half in under-served areas of Ghana where the need for comprehensive paediatric care is greatest.
In addition to the paediatric nurses trained through the program, an additional 1,264 health workers from all regions of Ghana were trained through short continuing professional development sessions in topics including newborn care, sickle cell disease and nutrition.
“All of our PNEP graduates report high levels of job satisfaction and higher levels of confidence as paediatric nurses. The graduates are recognized in their workplaces as leaders in paediatric care, demonstrating significant increases in knowledge and confidence as they provide care to their patients back in their facilities,” says Hannah Acquah, Project Director of PNEP and Rector of the Ghana College of Nurses and Midwives.
Creating long-term sustainability
Building the College’s capacity to deliver this educational program to support its long-term sustainability has been a priority of SickKids from day one. More than 200 nurse educators in Ghana have helped deliver the program, which focused on skill development in a clinical setting. Similar to SickKids’ teaching hospital model, the College has developed a hands-on education approach. This education differs from other theory-based programs, which don’t give nurses the hands-on experience that is critical to develop their clinical skills and confidence. While PNEP ended in September 2020, the College continues to operate the program. A new cohort of 99 nurses began the one-year training program in October 2020.
“The focus of the Centre for Global Child Health’s capacity building programs has always been on long-term sustainability. I am extremely pleased that the education of nurses and health workers will continue well beyond SickKids’ time in Ghana,” says Dr. Stanley Zlotkin, Chief, Centre for Global Child Health, SickKids.
“It has been a privilege to partner with Ghana to advance paediatric care in their country. We have learned as much from our partners as they have from us, and we truly thank them for this partnership over many years,” says Pam Hubley, Chief of International Nursing, SickKids.
2020, a year unlike any other, was designated as the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife by the World Health Organization (WHO) recognizing the vital role they play in meeting people’s essential health needs. WHO estimates 9 million more nurses and midwives are needed to achieve Universal Health Coverage - access to health services for all - by 2030.
Investment in nursing education is disproportionately low compared to nurses’ representation in the global health workforce. According to a 2020 WHO report on the state of the world’s nursing, only one-quarter of the global expenditure on health worker education is spent on nursing and midwifery.
SickKids is grateful to the Government of Canada and SickKids Foundation for their financial support of both PNTP (2009-2014) and PNEP (2015-2020), which collectively made paediatric nursing education more accessible in areas of most need, ultimately improving health outcomes for children across Ghana.
To learn more, read the latest PNEP newsletter (Final PNEP Quarterly – All Targets Achieved!).