The ICAP Global Nurse Capacity Building Program (GNCBP) held its annual meeting May 6 to 9 in Maseru, Lesotho. The three-day meeting brought together staff implementing nursing and midwifery projects across sub-Saharan Africa, as well as senior advisors from the Office of the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) and Health Resources and Service Administration (HRSA). GNCBP includes two PEPFAR-supported programmatic components: the Nurse Education Partnership Initiative (NEPI) and General Nursing component.

Presentations focused on successful interventions and strategies to strengthen Africa’s nursing workforce and were given by country teams from Cote D’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, and Zambia. This yearly gathering provides an essential forum for the staff working on the diverse GNCBP projects to share lessons learned and foster south-to-south exchange. “It’s an opportunity for countries to showcase what they are doing,” said Dr. Lyn Middleton, ICAP’s acting project director of GNCBP. “The exchange of ideas often leads to future cross-country collaboration.”

Attendees also visited the Clinical Simulation Lab at the National Health Training College in Maseru—one of the six schools in Lesotho supported by ICAP’s Nurse Education Partnership Initiative (NEPI). The simulation lab allows students to gain hands-on experience in post-partum suturing, blood pressure measurement, intravenous insertion and other key clinical procedures. The simulation tools range from simple realistic anatomical devices to lifelike human-sized, computerized, and physiologically responsive mannequins that can do everything from give basic responses to express disappointment if they believe the clinician lacks appropriate bedside manner.

“These clinical simulators are important educational tools, and give students the opportunity to practice and develop technical skill in a safe and controlled environment without risk of harming a patient,” said Janel Smith, nursing education officer at ICAP. “It’s a critical point in training where students develop and strengthen these skills and build confidence before they enter real clinical settings.”

Through ICAP’s support, nine clinical simulation labs of this kind have been developed in four countries—Lesotho, Zambia, Malawi, and Ethiopia—in an effort to strengthen the educational infrastructure available to in-service nurses and midwives.

The annual GNCBP meeting also provided an opportunity to look ahead, as ICAPplans to launch its new e-learning module to train nurses in Option B+ for prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV. “It’s the next step,” says Dr. Middleton. “How are we going to go about rolling it out?” GNCBP is preparing to launch the online training resources in August 2014.

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