Zambia Expands Leadership Training Nationwide for Rural Nurses and Midwives

health worker

Last month, the Board of Education in Zambia approved a nationwide scale-up of the Primary Health Care to Communities (PHC2C) Certification in Leadership and Management Practice for all nurses and midwives who lead frontline teams in rural health facilities. This cross-cadre, continuing professional development program is designed to help facility heads manage effectively through team-based approaches that help them deliver high-quality, people-centered primary health care.

Improving primary health care at the community level is crucial to achieving Zambia’s goal of universal health coverage, and the country has made significant investments in developing its community health workforce. In about 60% of rural facilities, a nurse or midwife functions as the facility head and oversees community health efforts.

In about 60% of rural facilities, a nurse or midwife functions as the facility head and oversees community health efforts.

But preservice nursing and midwifery training in Zambia has not generally covered the practical leadership and management skills these facility heads need to effectively align and integrate the contributions of community members, volunteers, community health workers, and facility staff as they all work to provide accessible, acceptable, affordable, and high-quality care.

This lack of alignment can lead to inefficiencies, quality issues, low accountability, and inadequate returns on community health workforce investments. The certification program is built on the government’s belief that nurses—when equipped with the right skills and support—can serve as the lynchpin of effective community health programs.

The year-long program positions nurses for success in their leadership roles as well as for professional advancement. It also cross-trains district managers, community health workers, and community members to build the skills they need, develop teamwork, and foster mutual accountability.

The PHC2C Certification in Leadership and Management Practice training:

  • covers essential leadership and management skills
  • guides participants through hands-on planning and management practices, including coaching and supervision skills and community-guided quality improvement
  • engages community health workers and community members in shared challenges
  • trains participants to mobilize resources, coach each other, and share tasks according to clear roles and responsibilities
  • includes a module dedicated to evidenced-based clinical practice, which contextualizes leadership within the broader goal of strengthening quality of clinical care  
  • offers a blended-learning design that allows participants with no or limited connectivity to participate using workbooks, but also allows for digital devices and interactive, virtual activities when information and communication technology infrastructure is available and reliable

IntraHealth International has also worked with Zambia’s Ministry of Health to align the program with other community health program trainings. The certificate program is adaptable to other countries and all of the modules and program materials are available through USAID’s mPowering ORB platform. 

IntraHealth International, mPowering Frontline Health Workers, and Johnson & Johnson worked closely with the University of Zambia, the General Nurses Council, the Health Professionals Council of Zambia, and the Zambian Union of Nurses Organization as part of the PHC2C project to develop, pilot, and scale the program.

Learn more about the Primary Health Care to Communities (PHC2C) project.