Supervision of community health nurses in Ghana: a mixed-methods study on experiences and mentorship needs

Health Policy Plan. 2021 Jun 3;36(5):720-727. doi: 10.1093/heapol/czaa167.


Adequate supervision is critical to maintain the performance of health workers who provide essential maternal and child health services in low-resource areas. Supportive supervision emphasizing problem-solving, skill development and mentorship has been shown to improve the motivation and effectiveness of health workers, especially at the community level, but it is not always routinely provided. Previous studies have assessed the uptake of supportive supervision among volunteer health workers and paid health centre staff, but less is known about the supervision experiences of paid community-based staff, such as community health nurses (CHNs) in Ghana. This mixed-methods study explores the frequency and content of CHN supervision in five districts in the Greater Accra and Volta regions of Ghana. We analysed quantitative data from 197 satisfaction surveys and qualitative data from 29 in-depth interviews (IDIs) and four focus group discussions (FGDs) with CHNs. While the majority of CHNs received supervision at least monthly, they reported that supervision was primarily focused on meeting clinical targets (48%) rather than on handling specific cases or patients (23%). Over a third (34%) of CHNs did not agree that supervisors help them with job-related challenges and nearly half (43%) were unsatisfied with their jobs. When asked about their mentorship needs, CHNs reported wanting feedback on how to improve their job performance (40%) and encouragement (30%). There were only slight variations in the frequency and content of supervision based on type of supervisor. During IDIs and FGDs, CHNs offered ideas for how to improve supervision, including more frequent field visits so that supervisors could see the on-the-ground realities of their work, greater respect and positive reinforcement. Overall, CHN motivation and job satisfaction may be strengthened by aligning supervision more closely with the principles of supportive supervision.

Keywords: Community health; Ghana; health workforce; human resources for health; maternal and child health; nurses; supervision.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Community Health Workers
  • Ghana
  • Humans
  • Mentors
  • Motivation
  • Nurses, Community Health*