Tanzania is one of 57 countries identified by the WHO as facing a human resources for health (HRH) crisis with an estimated shortage of 181,100 healthcare workers in the country. Currently in Tanzania, there are fewer than 4 nurses and midwives per 10,000 people, compared with the WHO optimal ratio of 16 per 10,000 people.
Mentorship is a novel technique to address systemic problems in health education such as poor morale and strenuous working conditions. Primary healthcare personnel play an important role in increasing the accessibility of healthcare, specifically in low- and middle-resourced communities. One of the best ways to enhance primary healthcare in vulnerable areas, such as rural Tanzania, is by creating mentorship programs for nurses and midwives. Finding ways to improve healthcare worker training has always been among the major priorities of Touch Foundation’s approach.
In alliance with WHO guidelines, Touch Foundation views training, clinical mentoring and supportive supervision of nurses and midwives as an effective strategy for improving the retention of healthcare workers and improving the overall strength of the Tanzanian healthcare system. Dr. Renae Stafford, Touch’s Program Director of Academic and Clinical Services, co-authored two articles, (http://ow.ly/Mrsj30gCtbf) (http://ow.ly/hrOM30gCteK), highlighting the great potential in clinical mentorship of midwives and nurses. Our Treat & Train program incorporates mentoring and preceptorship as a means to enhance clinical safety and promote professional communication, problem solving and crisis management. This will allow communities to achieve sustainable results when improving health and providing quality health services.
The training and mentoring of midwives and nurses is particularly beneficial in assuring antenatal, delivery, emergency obstetric and post-natal services to improve maternal and newborn health in low-resource settings, like the Lake Zone of Tanzania. With nearly half of all Tanzanian women giving birth at home without the care of a skilled healthcare worker, maternal and newborn death is all too frequent. In fact, a woman in Tanzania is 80 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than a woman in the United States. Through our Treat & Train program, we have trained maternal healthcare workers in Emergency Obstetric and Newborn Care. Well-trained healthcare workers form an important link to our Mobilizing Maternal Health program, where emergency transport has led to a 27% decrease in maternal deaths.