Freetown’s College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) was forced to shut its doors for nine months during the Ebola outbreak. Finally reopening in June 2015, COMAHS is critical for rebuilding Sierra Leone’s health workforce, despite its limited training capacity, poor learning facilities, and a major shortage of teaching staff in most areas. This essay tells the story of the partnership between COMAHS and KSLP, formed with the goal of building capacity and resilience in post-graduate education in Sierra Leone.
All photos © Katherine Wise/Momenta Workshops 2015
More than 11,300 people have died as a result of the recent Ebola epidemic, nearly all of them in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The outbreak had a devastating impact on these countries' health workforces; in Sierra Leone alone over 200 doctors and nurses lost their lives. With a small health workforce even before the epidemic, this left people in dire need of medical care and left medical students without teachers and role models.
Freetown's College of Medicine and Allied Health Sciences (COMAHS) was forced to shut its doors for nine months during the Ebola outbreak. Finally reopening in June 2015, COMAHS is critical for rebuilding Sierra Leone's health workforce, despite its limited training capacity, poor learning facilities, and a major shortage of teaching staff in most areas. This essay tells the story of the partnership between COMAHS, King's Health Partners, and King’s College London, formed with the goal of building capacity and resilience in post-graduate education in Sierra Leone. The work is funded by a grant from the DFID/THET Health Partnership Scheme.
Working together with faculty at COMAHS and physicians at Connaught Hospital, the teaching hospital that shares its campus with COMAHS, King's volunteers have supported the establishment of a clinical skills centre. These teaching sessions build the skills that future doctors and nurses will need in the demanding hospital environment.
Experienced medical staff at Connaught Hospital provide the mentoring and role modeling of clinical skills to students and junior staff. Shortages of experienced clinicians mean it can be difficult for students and recently graduated doctors to receive the training and exposure to treatment techniques that they will need to be successful after graduation.
King's volunteers deploy for year long placements to support local staff and give clinical lectures to students to overcome health workforce shortages. Student feedback has revealed that they enjoyed the hands-on experience afforded by bedside teaching and wanted to participate in more sessions.
Working together with Connaught Hospital physicians, King's volunteers lead clincial ward rounds to share their experiences with junior doctors and strengthen their skills in diagnosis and treatment.
In a country with a shortage of doctors, nurses frequently provide additional treatment and services. Recognising that nurses play a crucial role and provide the majority of direct patient care within the Sierra Leonean health system, Kings is looking forward to working further with the Faculty of Nursing to develop teaching skills.
Connaught and King's physicians co-taught on the first ever 3-day Emergency Medicine course for medical students. So far, 40 students have been trained through these courses. Local trainers will take these courses forward, ensuring the sustainability of improved emergency medicine practices.
Opportunities for learning don't stop with graduation; KSLP volunteers support weekly teaching sessions for A&E nurses on new proceedures including the the Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, Exposure (ABCDE) approach to assess and treat patients.
A well trained health workforce is vital for a resilient health system. Strengthening clinical skills, supporting experiential learning, teaching and modelling best practices, and ensuring the long-term sustainability of systems and protocols are just a few ways in which King's and COMAHS are working together to improve medical education in Sierra Leone. Together, the partnership is working to train the next generation of health workers and to contribute to a more resilient health system.