To promote national dialogue about health professional education reform among key stakeholders in Nigeria, the Nigerian Academy of Sciences held a workshop on 17 May 2012. It is one of seven countries selected for workshops by Dr. Bernie Jones, who is leading the InterAcademy Medical Panel’s (IAMP) effort to disseminate the Lancet Commission report recommendations to its member medical academies. The other countries with workshops planned include Cameroon, Ghana, South Africa, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Sweden.
Participants in Nigeria’s workshop included Provosts of Colleges of Medicine, Registrars of several regulatory bodies, and other major stakeholders. After a presentation about the findings of the report, participants commended the recommendations and highlighted the presence of similar documents within Nigeria that have called for reforms in the education of health professionals. Several documents have tried to define the competencies and skills required in medical schools on the African continent, they said, and it was pointed out that some schools are already working to incorporate innovative teaching styles into their curriculum. It was agreed that there is a need for medical and health institutes to align their effort to revise the current curricula.
Funding remains a major limiting issue to reforms in medical institutions across the country, however. It was also noted that the basic training requirements for all health professionals is determined by the National Universities Commission (NUC), which individual institutions can then add to as they deem appropriate.
The ten recommendations of the Lancet Health Professionals Education Report were discussed one by one, and can be reviewed in Dr. Jones’ report here.
Some highlights include:
• Adopt a competency-based curriculum: It was agreed that the current curricula at various institutions across Nigeria need to be overhauled to be more competency-based and to meet present-day standards. Participants urged the representative of the NUC to advocate for independent experimentation, allowing different schools to develop their curricula, try it out, and review results. Over time, the best can then be copied by other institutions
• Promote inter-professional and trans-professional education: It was generally agreed that this was a necessary step in improving healthcare education, and consequently healthcare services within the country. Reference was made to an attempt at pioneering this in Nigeria, the “Grillo programme” at the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife). Although it was soon abandoned, it should be reviewed for possible lessons. The participants lamented the existing inter-professional rivalry and noted that this was due to the lack of contact among the various groups during training and worsened by indoctrination by the professional associations. The NUC was urged to include interdisciplinary courses to bring health professionals together as a basic curriculum requirement for the professional regulatory bodies.
• Exploit the power of IT for learning: The importance of teaching students with various technological tools was emphasized. It was highlighted that several aspects of technological applications—such as virtual learning and e-books—should be explored.
• Strengthen educational resources: Postgraduate medical colleges need to conduct “train the trainers” workshops. Similarly, the universities need to pay more attention to ensuring their teachers are trained and re-trained in the best teaching methods. Focus should be on in-country training, however, which is less expensive than sending staff members abroad to learn certain skills. Institutions should be encouraged to identify other institutions that already practice quality competency-based teaching and learning and stimulate a process where they can learn from such innovative institutions. There is also a need, participants noted, to be able to reward/recognize the teachers who lead the revolution in the training of health professionals.
“Participants felt that this workshop was a good first step in ensuring inter-professional collaboration and would help to harmonize the ongoing effort by different institutions to revise their training curriculum,” Dr. Jones reports. There was a call to ensure that these meetings be held regularly to drive the needed changes and help foster better collaboration among the health professional groups.
See also: full report of the meeting