MENTORING TO FACILITATE LEARNING FOR HEALTH PROFESSIONALS : LESSONS LEARNED FROM A NIGERIAN HEALTH PROFESSIONALS’ FELLOWSHIP PROGRAM
Management Sciences for Health (NIGERIA)
About this paper:
Conference name: 4th International Conference on Education and New Learning Technologies
Dates: 2-4 July, 2012
Location: Barcelona, Spain
Nigeria has some of the worst health indicators in the world. Although the country has many cadres of health professionals, they work in a challenging environment and lack skills to provide quality health services. Management Sciences for Health (MSH), an international non- governmental organization, received funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) , to design and manage a training program to develop the skills of Nigerian health professionals to overcome challenges, lead positive change and provide quality services. A survey, by a policy intervention of the Nigerian Government to inculcate customer orientation in the Nigerian public sector, showed that poor attitude of health care workers has a negative impact on service delivery. Thus the fellowship program helps participants to acquire interpersonal and soft skills in order to improve their attitudes towards their colleagues and clients.
The PEPFAR Health Professionals’ Fellowship Program involves 6 to 9 weeks of classroom learning and applied work. A group of professionals from varied backgrounds are recruited as mentors. The purpose is to coach fellows to acquire and practice soft skills to improve their attitudes and manage their colleagues and clients in order to improve service delivery, which can in the long run lead to improved health outcomes. Mentoring is done using a skill-based approach in a structured and consistent manner. Mentors are a resource for discussing challenges and ideas. They also facilitate the acquisition of soft skills such as emotional intelligence, communication, e.t.c. Mentors also push participants to come up with solutions on their own and learn to effectively and consistently manage challenges in their respective facilities. Mentors guide the participants to reflect on each lesson; and support participants to produce an improvement plan for themselves and for their facility/organization. Mentoring sessions are conducted by the mentors in the evenings after classes. These sessions focus on utilizing the mentees’ experience during the day to learn and practice soft skills. The mentors are frequently evaluated by their mentees during the fellowship program The mentors provide follow-up and support to their mentees after graduation from the program. The mentors use a mentoring and coaching plan to guide their interactions with their mentees.
Seven cohorts of 159 health professionals have graduated from the fellowship program. These include nurses, doctors, tuberculosis (TB) health professionals and a mix of different health managers and policy makers. They have gone back and embarked on different improvement activities in their organizations and communities.
Keywords: Mentors, Soft skills, fellowship program.