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Empowering Change 
on the frontlines of health

Improve nurse education and training in East Africa

In 2001, the Aga Khan Development Network was invited by the Government of East Africa to improve nurse education and training in a bid to halt the out-migration of qualified nurses, and to strengthen and reform its health care system.

Like many developing countries, health provision in East Africa is mostly delivered by nurses. But with poor working environments, no access to continued professional development and a lack of respect for their profession, many nurses in the past chose to leave their countries once qualified, to seek better opportunities overseas. Whilst this trend of emigration of nurses has begun to change, much has still to be done to strengthen the role and reputation of nurses and midwives and to foster the deserved respect and acknowledgment of the nursing profession in East Africa.

The Advanced Nurse Studies program, run by the Aga Khan University (AKU) in East Africa, seeks to address these challenges. It is open to nurses at all levels from private clinics, hospitals and public institutions and provides training in skills needed to improve the management and quality of patient care and upgrades nurse qualifications. Nurses are able to study part time, either in the classroom or by distance learning, through an innovative `learn and earn’ training program. This means they can continue to work and support the health of their local communities, whilst accumulating the academic credits needed for career progression.

AKU’s nursing education program covers critical thinking, collaborative problem solving and leadership development, and provides clinical training in medical-surgical, child health and community health with research topics chosen by the nurses that are most relevant to their workplace. But perhaps most importantly, the program provides much needed access to clinical publications and peer-reviewed research helping nurses to stay connected with the latest developments and best practice around the world.

As a result of this program, AKU’s three locations have graduated more than 2380 students, 100 of whom now hold leadership positions across the region. 90 percent of nurse’s students have remained in East Africa, following graduation, helping to build the region’s health care capacity; more than half of the graduated students have advanced their careers by moving into management positions with higher salaries and more career opportunities. Today, within the program’s alumni, there are deans of nursing schools and senior leaders on nursing regulatory bodies and associations and within the Government.

Since 2001, AKU-SONAM together with The Trust has supported more than 2380 nurses and midwives to have access to high-quality nursing programs bringing a positive impact to the region and contribute to raising health indicators in child and maternal health across East Africa.. To learn more about the impact made please read the ”Supporting Healthy Futures for East Africa” report.

In East Africa, nurses and midwives are the main providers of health services and the first point of access for most people seeking care, but they face a number of challenges from low pay and poor working conditions to very limited representation in government and policy making. Since 2014, AKDN and the Trust have partnered to support, develop, position and, overall, strengthen the nursing and midwifery associations across East Africa.

Since it started, the program has directly reached 825 people, has supported the development of the strategic plans, organisational capacity assessments and institutional strengthening plans for the associations involved,  which resulted in an average increase of membership of 32%.

AKU-SONAM in East Africa exists to develop nursing and midwifery leaders - clinically competent, critically thinking nurses and midwives who positively impact the health outcomes of patients, their families, community and lead health system improvements and innovation. The positive impact of our graduates is central to this purpose and our long-standing partnership with the Trust is highly valued as a major support in the achievement of this mandate.

Sharon Brownie, Dean of Aga Khan University’s School of Nursing and Midwifery in East Africa.

Healthcare Workforce

We are inspired to help create a world where the current and future health care workforce has the necessary competencies to deliver high quality health care.