Voices from the Field: On-site Training in Senegal Improves Family Planning Services

Peer-to-peer mentoring

“The IntraHealth approach is very promising because health workers themselves have the opportunity to train their peers,” says Thiam Ami Mbow, reproductive health coordinator for the Kaolack medical region in Senegal. “The on-site training approach is innovative.”

Mbow is referring to a component of the Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health/Family Planning/Malaria Project in Senegal in which IntraHealth and the Division of Reproductive Health partnered to train providers—nurses, doctors and midwives—as “mentors” in areas related to family planning, including the provision of long-acting family planning methods. The mentors are trained over eight days, then return to their local facility and mentor their peers on new or updated family planning skills.

“The providers welcome this approach with open arms,” notes Yankhoba Fall, a nurse/supervisor at the Mabo health center and now a newly trained mentor.

Improving clients’ access to family planning

With USAID funding, IntraHealth is leading the project in an effort to increase the availability and use of family planning methods, with an emphasis on long-acting methods.

“The problem with traditional training session[s] is that you tend to forget everything the second you walk out of the training room,” explains Issa Fall—Yankhoba Fall’s brother. Issa is a nurse/supervisor at the Nganda health post, and he has been mentored by his brother. “It is very difficult for a nurse/supervisor to be able to study after the training. There’s no time for that.”

A more efficient training approach

IntraHealth’s approach overcomes this challenge by combining theoretical training with a hands-on practicum that includes using mannequins for clinical training and mentoring at a health facility.

The approach allows more providers to efficiently gain knowledge and skills—decreasing the number of staff who must travel and take time away from work to attend a training workshop.

“On-site training is the most ideal approach as it does not result in long staff absences at service delivery points,” comments Fatou Ndiaye, IntraHealth technical advisor for the project. “Health facilities remain operational, and providers can manage real cases right away.”

Health workers’ skills improve

“Within six months, we noticed that the health providers’ technical skills in IUD insertion had been strengthened. In the past, they would have had to go to Dakar and spend six days to receive theoretical training instead of working at their facility,” adds Thiam Ami Mbow. “Now there is a mentor working with the provider at [the] worksite in order to help that person better use [their] skills.”

More providers trained means that more clients can receive quality family planning services in a timely manner. “In the area of family planning, the reproductive health coordinator used to be the only one who could insert IUDs. When she was not around, nobody could do it,” says Ly Thiam, a gynecologist at the Mbour referral health center. “Now there is continuity in care. All [contraceptive] methods are provided, and all midwives are trained.”

In addition to mentors receiving training, their supervisors are also trained in the program. Both district and regional reproductive health coordinators benefit from strengthening their technical and supervisory skills in maternal and child health and family planning. To date, 573 providers have benefited from the mentoring program in 30 health centers and 49 health posts.

Utilizing this approach, IntraHealth has targeted six regions in Senegal: Dakar, Thiès, Louga, Saint-Louis, Kaolack and Kaffrine. Now, six to nine mentors oversee each region.

Plans to train more providers

In the next year, the project plans to reach an additional 50 health posts throughout the six regions. Due to the success of the mentor training program, the Senegalese Ministry of Health has approved this on-site approach as the official training method in Senegal.

Says Yankhoba Fall: “IntraHealth has come at the right time and is achieving spectacular results in maternal and child health.”

Launched in 2006, the Maternal, Neonatal and Child Health/Family Planning/Malaria Project is supporting the Senegalese Ministry of Health and Medical Prevention's efforts to improve maternal and child mortality and morbidity rates, as well as increase access to family planning services.