Background: Despite evidence supporting Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI) as a strategy to improve pediatric care in countries with high child mortality, its implementation faces challenges related to lack of or poor post-didactic training supervision and gaps in necessary supporting systems. These constraints lead to health care workers' inability to consistently translate IMCI knowledge and skills into practice. A program providing mentoring and enhanced supervision at health centers (MESH), focusing on clinical and systems improvement was implemented in rural Rwanda as a strategy to address these issues, with the ultimate goal of improving the quality of pediatric care at rural health centers. We explored perceptions of MESH from the perspective of IMCI clinical mentors, mentees, and district clinical leadership.
Methods: We conducted focus group discussions with 40 health care workers from 21 MESH-supported health centers. Two FGDs in each district were carried out, including one for nurses and one for director of health centers. District medical directors and clinical mentors had individual in-depth interviews. We performed a hermeneutic analysis using Atlas.ti v5.2.
Results: Study participants highlighted program components in five key areas that contributed to acceptability and impact, including: 1) Interactive, collaborative capacity-building, 2) active listening and relationships, 3) supporting not policing, 4) systems improvement, and 5) real-time feedback. Staff turn-over, stock-outs, and other facility/systems gaps were identified as barriers to MESH and IMCI implementation.
Conclusion: Health care workers reported high acceptance and positive perceptions of the MESH model as an effective strategy to build their capacity, bridge the gap between knowledge and practice in pediatric care, and address facility and systems issues. This approach also improved relationships between the district supervisory team and health center-based care providers. Despite some challenges, many perceived a strong benefit on clinical performance and outcomes. This study can inform program implementers and policy makers of key components needed for developing similar health facility-based mentorship interventions and potential barriers and resistance which can be proactively addressed to ensure success.