HRH Forum: Education and Workforce Development

Daisy WinnerBlog, Medicine, Midwifery, Nursing

Teaching and training were in focus yesterday at the Fourth Global Forum on Human Resources for Health in Dublin, as the morning plenary and several concurrent sessions explored education, skills utilization, and approaches to health professional development.

In a morning plenary, Dr. Or Vandine, Director General for Health of the Government of Cambodia, focused on a “triangle” of skill building, infrastructure development for service delivery, and community engagement for increased access as an important triumvirate in strengthening health workers’ abilities to deliver care. Through her remarks, Forum attendees learned about Cambodia’s approach to “dramatically increasing the number of doctors,” building from a workforce of just 28 to a workforce of more than 23,000 physicians today by emphasizing developing curriculum and fast-tracking the development of medical educators.

Joining Dr. Vandine and other colleagues for the session, Dr. George Sigounas Administrator of the United States’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), noted that his agency’s focus is also three-fold, as they seek to address health professional shortage geographies, a maldistribution of specialties, and a general shortage of training and education in some rural and low-resource areas in the U.S. In an effort to address all three areas, the National Health Service Corps, a program of HRSA, places doctors, nurses, specialists in two-year teaching and service roles in low-resource areas, and similar to Seed’s own flagship program with Peace Corps, the Global Health Service Partnership, NHSC offers loan repayment. Many of the providers then stay in those low-resource communities, according to Dr. Sigounas.

Reflecting on future trends, both Dr. Sigounas and Dr. Vandine noted that while more health professionals are needed, a sheer increase in numbers will not completely solve the human resources for health challenges faced in their countries and globally. Dr. Vandine emphasized the need for a focus on both quality and quantity of health delivery, throughout the workforce, and Dr. Sigounas added that with demographic shifts in countries – from aging in the U.S. to a youth “bubble” in other places – we’ll have to continue to develop and share working models that indicate what specialties we will need in the future and what models of care will best meet evolving population needs.

In a later concurrent session, Susan Michaels-Strasser, a frontline nurse for more than 14 years and global nurse educator, noted how important experience is to designing educational programs, sharing that “it was my first years as a frontline nurse that educated me on what it means to design a health system that’s responsive to people.” She continued on to share six essential building blocks for workforce strengthening: faculty development; policy and regulations; continuing professional development opportunities; clinical skills development; curriculum enhancement; and infrastructure strengthening. Through e-learning, simulation centers, and clinical immersion, nurse education can continue to help nurses not only learn, but to also “internalize and incorporate their learning into practice, in the full context of care.”

Our own work at Seed Global Health has a similar focus on both strengthening medical and nursing education to support quality care, and also teaching and training health educators so that they can strengthen the local health care workforce pipeline. With more than 186 visiting faculty placed in 39 sites over the last five years, we’re proud to have helped train more than 13,000 health professionals – professionals who will lead the way this generation and next, towards a healthier future.