Capacity building among nursing and midwifery professional associations in East Africa

Stephen Ruhmel, Janssen Research & Development, LLC, Johnson & Johnson, Titusville, NJ, USA
Eunice Ndirangu, Aga Khan University
Joseph Mwizerwa, The Aga Khan University
Ahmed Sarki, Aga Khan University
Eunice Pallangyo, Aga Khan University


Background Despite improvements in educational opportunities, policy changes, and pay raises in the nursing and midwifery professions in East Africa, poor working conditions, few professional development opportunities, and a general lack of respect for these professions predominate. These issues contribute to a low quality of care among a population with a high burden of communicable diseases. Health professional associations may help to address these challenges by providing a voice for nurses and midwives.

Objective This study evaluated the impact of a 5-year programme focused on strengthening nurses’ and midwives’ professional associations in East Africa.

Methods This study used a mixed methods design. Quantitative, cross-sectional descriptive data were captured via surveys (n = 1,266) distributed to association members. In-depth interviews (n = 65) were used to obtain qualitative data and complement the survey responses. Quantitative and qualitative data collection occurred concurrently. The results were compared to assess the impact of the programme across Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania.Results The programme successfully built capacity in four of five organisational capacity areas: resource mobilisation, financial management, strategy, and monitoring and evaluation. Marketing and communications, the fifth targeted area, did not show improvement. Capacity in both research and service delivery was also improved, despite the programme not providing training in these areas. In addition, collaboration among associations and their members was improved.

Conclusion These results support existing evidence on the impact of capacity building among professional nursing associations and coincide with the World Health Organization’s objectives for nursing. Future capacity building programmes should consider replicating the successful activities from this programme and investigate ways to reach more rural branches and provide tailored content. This study contributes to a small but growing body of knowledge that supports capacity building among the African health workforce.