Applying the workload indicators of staffing needs method in determining frontline health workforce staffing for primary level facilities in Rivers state Nigeria

Glob Health Res Policy. 2019 Dec 6:4:35. doi: 10.1186/s41256-019-0125-z. eCollection 2019.


Background: Nigeria faces health workforce challenges and poor population health indices resulting from disparities in health worker densities by geographical locations and levels of health care delivery. Nigeria is constantly reforming its health system with the primary aim of having the right number of health workers in the right place at the right time to meet the population's health needs. The majority of primary health facilities in the country are staffed using perceived needs. The Workload Indicators of Staffing Need (WISN) tool developed by the World Health Organization is used to determine staffing requirements for facilities.

Methods: The WISN tool was used in assessing the staffing requirements for nurses/midwives and community health practitioners in 26 primary health facilities in Port Harcourt City Local Government Area (PHALGA) and Obio Akpor Local Government Area (OBALGA). Documents were reviewed to obtain information on working conditions and staffing, and interviews conducted with key informants in 12 randomly selected facilities. We supported an expert working group that comprised of nurses/midwives and community health practitioners to identify workload components and activity standards and validate both. We also retrieved workload data from January 1-December 31, 2015 from the national district health information system.

Results: Findings showed varying degrees of shortages and inequitable distribution of health workers. Health facilities in PHALGA had a WISN ratio of 0.63 and a shortage of 31 nurses/midwives. There was also a shortage of 12 community health practitioners with a WISN ratio of 0.85. OBALGA had a shortage of 50 nurses/midwives and 24 community health practitioners; and WISN ratios of 0.60 and 0.79 for nurses/midwives and community health practitioners respectively.

Conclusion: Our findings provide evidence for policies that will help Nigeria improve the population's access to quality health services and reduce inequities in distribution of the health workforce. Evidence-based health workforce planning and redistribution using WISN should be institutionalized. Review of scopes of practice of health workforce should be conducted periodically to ensure that the scope of practice matches the training received by the specific cadres and those skills are used to deliver quality services.

Keywords: Community health extension workers; Community health officers; Community health practitioners; Frontline health workers; Health workforce; Human resources for health; Nurse midwives; Workload indicators of staffing needs.