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Good news for healthcare in Benin

Training & Education

There is always room to improve healthcare, but in countries where healthcare lags behind to the Western world, the situation is urgent. Benin is just such a country, where the level of training for doctors and paramedics must be raised in order to comply with international standards.

In 2016, the Institut Universitaire des Sciences Economiques et Biologiques Appliquées (IUSEBA) based in Parakou called in the assistance of PUM in establishing a suitable training programme for nurses and midwives. The gaps in the curriculum are being made up.

‘The next logical step towards professionalisation was the practical module’

What the university needed most urgently was a skills lab for practical training. Until now, the study programme consisted exclusively of theory education, which failed to meet the needs of the professional field and was insufficient to meet the quality requirements imposed by the state. PUM expert Elsa Norde visited IUSEBA. Elsa explained, “What I found was an ambitious and motivated management team, good quality of theoretical knowledge and motivated students and teaching staff. The next logical step towards professionalisation was the practical module.”

Medic Foundation

The university had no materials for a skills lab. Elsa therefore invited the Director and nursing coordinator to visit the Netherlands, for a business link. Together with fellow PUM expert Josette Olde Kalter Drent, they went in search of second-hand equipment and other medical supplies to equip the lab facility. Elsa continued, “Funds for these purchases were limited. We therefore called in the support of two essential bodies. First we visited Medic Foundation in Apeldoorn. They collect equipment and materials from hospitals, clinics and other care institutions and sell or donate them to various parties, including the clients of PUM. They had just about everything we needed, including hospital beds, IV drip stands, microscopes, baby weighing scales, stomach probes and catheters. Some of the materials were donated by Medic Foundation, while other items were purchased at a reduced rate. The PUM Hans Blankert Fund also offered support, by honouring an application to cover 3000 euros of the purchase costs. The costs of shipping the equipment were paid by Medic Foundation, the university paid the local import duties, and all in all, we were well on the way to success.”

Once the materials had arrived, Josette visited IUSEBA. The aim of this mission was to equip the skills lab and train the teaching staff for the new practical curriculum elements.
In Josette’s words, “The university had met the conditions imposed by Elsa for renovating a classroom, ensuring it was hygienically prepared and fitted with air conditioning and windows that could be opened and closed. In the classroom we set up a series of wards: nursing, accident & emergency, and maternity.
To generate extra publicity, we opened the skills lab officially with a public ceremony. All the local midwives attended; for us, this reflected recognition of the importance of the new facility. A few days later I gave a public practical class that was attended by the members of the university’s governing board and local professionals. This level of local interest is good news for everyone involved.

‘Thanks to the practical module, students have improved massively.’

The level of the theory component of the study programme was excellent and the students were serious and motivated. The application of theory in practice was a different story. Issues such as working in sterile conditions, checking whether all the necessary equipment was present and tidying away mess, were easily overlooked. They also found it difficult to trust the theory they had been taught. And that is exactly why practical training is so important. By practising theoretically learned lessons, you remember some 90% of what you have been taught. Purely theory-based learning results in just 10% to 20% of remembered learning. Thanks to the practical module, the students have improved massively. In the classroom, they simulated situations on the nursing department, accident & emergency medicine and the maternity ward, and then evaluated the outcome from the viewpoint of the different roles as nurse, patient and observer. This led to important insights, and occasional hilarity ...!"

Essential practical experience

Practical training is the first crucial step towards internships and graduation. Once they have practised sufficiently, the students take a practical examination supervised by teaching staff and following a pass grade performance, they are admitted to internships at hospital. Until recently, they were only permitted to observe but thanks to their new practical experience, students will be able to get down to work, having received thorough training.

Josette continued, “The skills lab is kept clean and tidy by the students; far better in fact than in many actual hospitals. The intention is that they pass on these habits and their level of knowledge to the hospital work floor. At present, some three hundred students are being trained as nurses and midwives, but we expect the number of registrations to grow quickly, now that practical training has been added, so that graduate students are of a far higher standard. And that is excellent news for the whole of Parakou."

After returning from their missions, Elsa and Josette are still monitoring the progress. Teaching staff and students at IUSEBA continue to share their new teaching experiences with them, so as to maintain the high level of the work assignments. And what is the next step? Raising the level of training even higher and introducing a digital library.

Elsa Norde (70) is a doctor and former lecturer, curriculum developer and director of the medical and paramedical study programme at the Hogeschool in Amsterdam. On behalf of PUM, she was involved over a five-year period in establishing a nursing school on Sumatra. She has completed 10 missions as a PUM expert.
Josette Olde Kalter Drent (68) is a former ICU nurse, midwife and humanist coach/trainer. During a past PUM mission on Sumatra, she assisted in establishing a practical teaching programme with a skills lab. The mission to IUSEBA was her third mission on behalf of PUM.