Project helping to boost nursing associations in Africa

A project helping national nursing associations in African countries grow and develop their workforce has led to a series of quality improvement initiatives across the continent.

The International Council of Nurses (ICN), in 2021, began the Organisational Development of National Nursing Associations (ODENNA) project.

“ICN was designed for and by nurses, and so it understands the value of these associations”

Jody Temple White

ODENNA was set up to help national nursing associations (NNAs) in 23 African countries grow, both in size and influence.

In turn, the hope was that these associations would become better advocates for the nursing profession in their respective countries – be this in the form of stronger influence at a policy level, distributing training or other areas where they could improve healthcare.

The programme has led to nursing associations working on projects including digital tools to track nursing numbers, improving training in hospitals and nursing schools and improving gender equality in healthcare.

ODENNA project manager Jody Temple White said ICN set it up to “empower and equip” African NNAs to give them parity with their equivalents in other countries.

“ICN was designed for and by nurses, and so it understands the value of these associations, and what nurses bring to communities and countries,” said Ms Temple White.

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“The need [for ODENNA] was that there were a number of nursing associations around the globe, but especially in Africa, in need of support for development.”

Ms Temple White said the 23 NNAs from across Africa were in varying stages of development when ODENNA started, adding: “Some didn’t have a large membership pool, others were more established.”

Phase one of the project, launched in 2021, saw the NNAs submit evidence to the ICN about what areas for improvement and development they required.

The second phase, which ran from early 2022 until the beginning of 2024, brought representatives from the 23 NNAs to leadership workshops run by ICN.

These workshops – one run in Senegal for the French language group and another in Rwanda for English speaking NNAs – aimed to equip the nurse leaders with additional clinical and leadership skills which they could bring back to their organisations and, in turn, improve patient care by disseminating to other nurses.

Explaining further, Ms Temple White said: “As you strengthen up the individual, the organisation benefits.

“It’s about individual leadership, helping them learn the skills so that if they start to write policy or work to implement change in their community or NNA they can do that, it all feeds through.”

ICN chief executive Howard Catton giving a message to an ODENNA workshop in Senegal, March 2024

ICN chief executive Howard Catton giving a message to an ODENNA workshop in Senegal

For ODENNA phase three, which launched earlier this year, ICN is helping African associations to put into place improvement projects ranging from NNA-wide improvements to national policy change proposals.

The National Association of Nigeria Nurses and Midwives is using the third phase of ODENNA to support the creation of membership software which helps keep track of the size and shape of the workforce.

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For the Nurses Association of the Republic of Seychelles, a quality improvement project is being run across the small island nation’s healthcare centres. This scheme, Ms Temple White said, will see nine ‘standard operating procedures’ introduced to standardise care across Seychelles.

Other improvement projects supported by ODENNA include improving nurse training in Somalia, a “policy review” of the relationship between nurses and the government in Zimbabwe, improving the participation of women in management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and creating a “comprehensive workload assessment framework” for nurses and midwives in Ghana.

To achieve this third phase, ICN matched the African NNAs with nursing leaders from more developed associations across the world.

Ms Temple White said she hoped this would encourage collaboration between member countries of the international organisation and boost the likelihood that these projects will be successful.

Looking ahead, she said developing NNAs from outside of Africa had also aired interest in a project like ODENNA.

Ms Temple White added: “How we see ODENNA is being part of how we support our members across the globe.

“There are other countries trying to build up their nursing associations, trying to get the expertise for which they don’t have the resources – that’s where ICN can really help by bringing together tools and programmes.

“It’s like an incubator of sorts. This is a pilot programme, we’re looking at how we can refine it and I’m excited to see how it goes.”

Speaking in February, ahead of the launch of ODENNA phase three, ICN president Dr Pamela Cipriano said she was confident it would strengthen the NNAs of African countries where needed.

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She said: “In this, our 125th year, we know how powerful and influential NNAs are to lift and advance nurses and nursing.

“This unique ICN programme harnesses the wealth of experience of our associations around the world, which are the source of ICN’s strength, to enhance nursing on the continent of Africa.

“The ODENNA programme is an amazing opportunity to formalize what our NNAs have always done: share best practice and help each other to develop and push the profession forward.

“I am confident it will strengthen the NNAs and their advocacy for the nurses in the countries involved, and that is good news for the people and communities that they serve.”

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