Strengthening and Institutionalizing the Leadership and Management Role of Frontline Nurses to Advance Universal Health Coverage in Zambia

Glob Health Sci Pract. 2018 Dec 27;6(4):736-746. doi: 10.9745/GHSP-D-18-00067. Print 2018 Dec 27.


In Zambia, nurses and nurse-midwives lead more than half of rural facilities and guide primary health care delivery. Based on a formative assessment, the Ministry of Health (MOH) determined that improved leadership capacity and management skills of facility heads would help maximize the potential of Zambia's community-level investments. In support of these efforts, the Primary Health Care to Communities (PHC2C) initiative designed and tested a 12-month blended learning program for a certificate in leadership and management practice (CLMP) to build leadership and management competencies of rural facility heads, including increasing their ability to lead frontline teams and strengthening their skills and confidence in technology use. The CLMP was created with leadership from the MOH, technical guidance from the University of Zambia, and expertise from PHC2C partners IntraHealth International, Johnson & Johnson, and mPowering Frontline Health Workers. In total, 20 nurse facility heads and 5 district nurse supervisors in 20 rural facilities across 5 districts were selected to test the course content and delivery approach. A mixed-methods approach, including evaluation of facility heads' presentations on community health improvement projects, focus group discussions with community members, and key informant interviews with nurses, clinical officers, and other stakeholders, was used to assess the results. Findings suggested that the facility heads had successfully strengthened their leadership and management competencies, increased their ability to lead frontline teams, and strengthened their skills and confidence in use of technology, including using a WhatsApp community of practice for support and consultation with other colleagues, with demonstrated improvements in the quality and accessibility of services. Based on assessment results and lessons from the test intervention, the Zambian government has committed to institutionalize CLMP as a national continuing professional development program, required for nurses posted to lead rural facilities. The planning, design, and implementation of this program offer an example to other countries and global actors of how nurses empowered with competence and confidence can play a significant role in coordinating the maze of community actors and navigating the complexities of community health systems to advance primary health care and universal health coverage.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum / standards
  • Focus Groups
  • Humans
  • Leadership*
  • Nurse Midwives / education*
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Nursing Staff / education*
  • Policy Making
  • Primary Health Care
  • Professional Competence
  • Program Evaluation
  • Rural Health Services*
  • Universal Health Insurance*
  • Zambia