We mark the 9th Health Worker Week by celebrating Prepared for Practice and its unique partnership model. The project brings together health workers from the UK and Somaliland to strengthen the quality of health education in Somaliland.
Health Worker Week takes place this year from 5 to 9 April 2021. It is an annual celebration of health workers and the contribution they make to health systems around the world.
In recognition of the vital role that health workers play in keeping their communities – and the world – safe, the World Health Organization (WHO) has also designated 2021 the Year of Health and Care Workers. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, the year-long campaign recognises the need to increase investment in health workers to ensure they are supported, protected, motivated and equipped to deliver the health care that we all rely on.
We are all aware of the vital role that health workers play, and yet the world is facing a global shortage of health workers. In Somaliland, the 2015 national health workforce survey estimated there were just 197 doctors, 1,256 nurses and 344 midwives serving the population of around 3.5 million, falling far short of the WHO-recommended minimum threshold of 23 health workers per 10,000 population.
Part of the UK-aid-funded SPHEIR programme, the Prepared for Practice project supports the development of the health workforce in Somaliland. Recognising that the development of health workers begins in the higher education sector, we are working with three Somaliland universities to improve the quality of education for medical, nursing and midwifery students. Through this partnership, we are increasing the number of adequately trained health workers entering the health system.
A unique partnership model for health workforce development
The project is led by King’s Global Health Partnerships and is delivered through a unique partnership model that brings together UK health workers and education specialists with their counterparts in Somaliland to strengthen the health workforce. The model enables us to leverage expertise, learning and best practice from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS), as well as from UK and Somaliland universities and combine it with partners’ deep understanding of the cultural, political, economic and social context to design evidence-based interventions to strengthen the health education system.
Here are just some of the ways health workers and educationalists are involved in the project:
- Each year, 45 UK health workers and education professionals deliver online undergraduate courses in subjects including internal medicine, surgery, radiology, neurology, nursing, midwifery, research and communication skills. The courses address gaps in expertise amongst Somaliland teaching staff and provide students with increased opportunities for practical, case-based discussion.
- 34 UK health workers and education professionals have designed and delivered Somaliland’s first postgraduate course in Health Professions Education. The Certificate, Diploma or Masters course - taught to 90 teaching staff so far - enables them to develop expertise in curriculum design, pedagogy and assessment. A co-teaching model, in which Somaliland teaching staff studying at advanced levels of the course co-teach with their UK counterparts to more junior levels, is providing a sustainable pathway for the course to be handed over to Somaliland universities. A further 87 teaching staff are now being trained by Somaliland colleagues.
- 20 health workers and education professionals from the UK and Somaliland have collaboratively designed a new national curriculum for medical students. This is a crucial step in standardising the quality of courses delivered to medical students across the country and ensuring the curriculum aligns to the country’s population health needs.
- 7 health workers and education professionals in the UK and Somaliland worked together to develop national standards for assessing medical, nursing and midwifery schools. The new standards have been brought in line with international standards and will strengthen regulation and quality oversight of the courses provided by health faculties.
UK health workers volunteer their time - since the start of the project, UK volunteers have donated volunteering hours worth over £1.53 million to the project.
A mutually beneficial model
Involvement in the project has benefits beyond Somaliland. There is widespread evidence of the personal and professional benefits of volunteering. Recent evidence highlights that volunteers on projects like Prepared for Practice gain valuable skills and experience which they are able to take back into their UK places of work - including how to problem solve in a crisis, adapt to unfamiliar surroundings, make difficult decisions in high-stress situations, maximise impact in low-capacity and low-resource settings, and identify opportunities for frugal innovation. In addition, volunteers have shown increased self-efficacy, motivation, and self-esteem upon return, which benefits the UK institutions through higher retention.