In 2014, ICAP launched an online training course for nurses and midwives in the Option B+ approach for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The introductory course was developed to provide up-to-date information on current HIV care and treatment guidelines for HIV positive pregnant women beginning lifelong antiretroviral (ART) at the time of diagnosis. Focused on task shifting, the course was seen as an efficient and effective way for nurses to gain essential knowledge and skills for ART initiation, a task historically reserved for doctors. It was the first online course of its kind.
Developed with the Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) at Columbia University, and with support from PEPFAR through HRSA, the training was first piloted at eight nursing schools in Malawi, Lesotho, and Zambia through ICAP’s Nursing Education Partnership Initiative. The Option B+ course provides training on HIV counseling and testing, ART for pregnant women, and care for HIV-exposed infants.
“E-learning enables us to increase access to essential HIV training for nursing and midwifery students in low resource areas,” said Janel Smith, nursing education officer at ICAP. “Students who do not have access to current textbooks or comprehensive HIVeducation are able to log into the training online and access the most current lessons.”
In an early assessment, ICAP found that Option B+ course increased knowledge of essential HIV skills among nurses and midwifery students by more than 10 percent among nursing and midwifery students at the eight pilot schools. Students at Mzuzu University in Malawi stated that the training had imparted “knowledge on HIV/AIDS management and how to handle real life scenarios.”
“Initial feedback on the program has been positive,” said Smith. “It gives us a sense of usability and accessibility, and that is important feedback as we expand our online course offering.”
After two years, the number of nurses and midwives accessing ICAP’s Option B+ online training grew dramatically from the eight NEPI partner schools in Malawi, Zambia, and Lesotho, to over 2,000 users in more than 30 countries. The number of users is expected to grow.
Recently, ICAP translated the curriculum and Option B+ training is now available in English, French, and Portuguese. The course has now extended beyond pre-service students to include practicing nurses and midwives and has been accredited for six hours of continuing professional development (CPD) by the East, Central, and Southern African Colleges of Nursing (ECSACON). Those who complete the course can freely access a certificate of completion from ECSACON.
Based on the success of this course, and to support global efforts to increase HIV care and treatment among children and adolescents, ICAP is now developing a second e-learning course in pediatric HIV nursing care. Funded by PEPFAR through the ACT Initiative under the CDC, the training will be available later this year on the EdX MOOC platform.
“Expanding e-learning has the potential to reach more health workers with up-to-date guidance for HIV care and treatment,” said Dr. Susan Michaels-Strasser, director of implementation at ICAP. “Increasing numbers of adequately trained and competent nurses and midwives should result in a scale-up of services toward the goal of an AIDS-free generation.”