Research Brief: Training the future healthcare workforce of Afghanistan

U of M/KUMS midwife training

University of Minnesota School of Nursing and Kabul University Medical Sciences faculty discuss midwifery practices. Photo credit: University of Minnesota.

Despite ongoing insecurity, health outcomes in Afghanistan have improved. Reasons for this success include a strategic public-private health service delivery model, as well as investment in health care workforce development. 

Afghan universities have the primary responsibility for ensuring that an adequate health care workforce is available to private and public health care delivery settings. In 2017, the University of Minnesota partnered with Kabul University Medical Sciences (KUMS) to improve clinical, educational, professional and leadership skills for health sciences faculty in Kabul, Afghanistan. 

The goal of the project was to improve the academic quality of KUMS faculties of midwifery, medical laboratory technology, dentistry and anesthesiology. In order to ensure quality education that results in a larger and more patient forward Afghan healthcare workforce, the project worked to:

  • develop the clinical knowledge and educational skills of the KUMS faculty;
  • develop the pedagogical and leadership competencies of the KUMS faculty;
  • advise on teaching and learning equipment, resources, and approaches based on educational best practices and the realities of the KUMS context;
  • establish University of Minnesota partnership relationships aimed to be sustainable over time. 

In an article recently published in the International Journal of Higher Education, the University of Minnesota multidisciplinary project team — led by Carolyn Porta, associate vice president for clinical affairs for the University of Minnesota and professor in the School of Nursing — details the partnership’s successes, lessons learned and opportunities for future partnerships to strengthen the healthcare workforce in Afghanistan. 

Among the project team’s observations, the partnership:

  • achieved a number of successes, including KUMS faculty incorporating new interactive instruction techniques that have been positively received by students;
  • demonstrated successful relationship building that yield significant faculty growth and development in a relatively short period of time;
  • revealed the desire and need for external partnerships that can support Afghan faculty in their pursuit of current best clinical practices to contribute to the health of Afghans.

“This partnership gave our Afghan colleagues the chance to broaden their international experience and gain exposure to emerging evidence and approaches to practice,” said Porta. “Likewise, for many of our own faculty, it provided them with exposure to global work. We discovered that much can be accomplished with willingness to build trust, to engage in nontraditional learning strategies, to have fun along the way, and to build relationships and learn from colleagues in different healthcare professions, institutions and countries.”

This partnership was funded by a subaward from FHI 360, an organization funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, to strengthen higher education in Afghanistan. When the project ended in 2019, the U of M joined other U.S. universities and FHI 360 in seeking additional funding to focus on instituting innovative practices within higher education in Afghanistan.

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About the University of Minnesota School of Nursing
Founded in 1909 and recognized as the birthplace of university-based nurse education, the University of Minnesota School of Nursing continues to lead the profession into the future. With a mission to generate knowledge and prepare nurse leaders who create, lead and participate in holistic efforts to improve the health of all people, the school and its research are addressing health issues across the life span with a focus on health promotion among vulnerable populations, prevention and management of chronic health conditions, symptom management, and health/nursing informatics and systems innovation. The school is ranked among the top programs in nursing informatics and is internationally renowned for its efforts to improve health and health care through the use of big data.

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University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
03/02/2020