Background: Recently competency approach in Health Professionals' Education (HPE) has become quite popular and for an effective competency based HPE, it is important to design the curriculum around the health care needs of the population to be served and on the expected roles of the health care providers. Unfortunately, in community settings roles of health providers tend to be described less clearly, particularly at the Primary Health Care (PHC) level where a multidisciplinary and appropriately prepared health team is generally lacking. Moreover, to tailor the education on community needs there is no substantial evidence on what specific requirements the providers must be prepared for.
Methods: This study has explored specific tasks of physicians and nurses employed to work in primary or secondary health care units in a context where there is a structural scarcity of community health care providers. In-depth Interviews of 11 physicians and 06 nurses working in community settings of Pakistan were conducted along with review of their job descriptions.
Results: At all levels of health settings, physicians' were mostly engaged with diagnosing and prescribing medical illness of patients coming to health center and nurses depending on their employer were either providing preventive health care activities, assisting physicians or occupied in day to day management of health center. Geographical location or level of health facility did not have major effect on the roles being expected or performed, however the factors that determined the roles performed by health providers were employer expectations, preparation of health providers for providing community based care, role clarity and availability of resources including health team at health facilities.
Conclusions: Exploration of specific tasks of physicians and nurses working in community settings provide a useful framework to map competencies, and can help educators revisit the curricula and instructional designs accordingly. Furthermore, in community settings there are many synergies between the roles of physicians and nurses which could be simulated as learning activities; at the same time these two groups of health providers offer distinct sets of services, which must be harnessed to build effective, non-hierarchal, collaborative health teams.