Zambia Critical Care: establishing a framework for developing and qualifying nursing personnel

Lead academic(s)

Joy Notter, Professor of Community Health; Major Chris Carter, Senior Lecturer

Background to engagement activity

In 2015, an advertisement in a medical journal called for volunteers to set up a critical nursing care programme in Zambia; a stable, landlocked, low income country with 60 per cent of the population living in rural communities. The aim was to help realise the potential of the healthcare system by instituting a framework for developing the nursing staff who deliver the majority of critical care in Zambia. BCU’s Major Carter, a Senior Lecturer in the Defence School of Healthcare Education responded and the seeds of BCU’s Zambia Health partnership were sown.

Engagement activity undertaken

Over five years, the Health Partnership has grown in both the scale and scope of its activities using the extensive links of its major partners - the Lusaka College of Nursing, Zambian Ministry of Health and Birmingham City University - in Gambia and the UK.

Critical Care is a relatively new specialism of nursing in Zambia. With limited or few dedicated doctors, critical care nurses are having to undertake extended and essential roles to sustain and maintain acute sector healthcare services.

In the initial engagement, Major Carter undertook a two week needs assessment consulting with key strategic stakeholders including the Ministry of Health, Nursing and Midwifery regulators, General Nursing Council of Zambia, Unions, Education providers and staff in practice.

Ongoing engagement with the health sector in Zambia has seen consultation with at least 16 hospitals, the two colleges of nursing, and a large number of healthcare professionals. The partnership has established a community of practice between nurses with different cultural and professional backgrounds and experiences from all levels of the healthcare system, from strategic leaders to frontline nurses. This has been formalised in a National Network of Critical Care Nurses, affiliated to the World Federation of Critical Care Nurses.

Knowledge transferred

The extensive engagement over a long period of time means that BCU is recognised as a reliable and trusted 'all weather friend' by strategic partners in Zambia. The depth of the engagement has given the partnership a deep understanding of critical care, emergency and general nursing across Zambia, developed understanding of healthcare provision across the country and helped provide context for policy and practice recommendations.

Evidence of impact

The establishment of a community of practice has helped develop Critical Care as a recognised specialism in Zambia. This and other activities such as the national needs assessment and careers framework review have led to the review and validation of an Advanced Diploma of Critical Care Nursing and BSc Critical Care Nursing in the country.

Over 900 healthcare workers have been trained since 2015 and BCU students and academics have also benefitted from the partnership. Six Birmingham City University students visited Zambia in 2017 to see the treatment of diseases such as tuberculosis (TB) and malaria – which are rare in the UK and gained valuable experience in the pressures of practicing in a resource-limited environment.

Dates of activity

2015 - 2020