Clinical Officer Training in Rwanda

The Clinical Officer training program has three components — community care, clinical care, and clinic management — according to Emmy.

The community training aspect of the curriculum focuses on primary health care, communicable diseases, environmental health, food, nutrition, epidemiology, and maternal and child health. Students partake in field projects, where they must go and work in a rural community.

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“As one would assess a sick patient, we have students assess the community for its medical needs,” Emmy said.

The students must then create and implement a health intervention. This project is designed to help students develop the skills they will need in the future to address community needs.

The clinical care aspect of the clinical officer training program is rooted in medical training. However, the program is unique in that students are exposed early on to clinical care, with the curriculum equally divided between theory and clinical exposure.

Students attend lectures in medicine, pharmacology, and pathophysiology, and spend the other half of their time working closely with hospital staff, where they learn hands-on clinical skills and are supervised by medical doctors and other hospital personnel.

The Rwandan Ministry of Health also recognizes that Clinical Officers should learn the skills to manage rural health centers. Currently, nurses staff these facilities, but they lack clinical training and management skills, which are important for any health professional with these responsibilities.

The development of the Rwandan Clinical Officer program is an extremely important step to address the nation’s health-care provider shortages and will likely have a huge impact on the country’s morbidity and mortality, he predicts.

After my conversation with Emmy and handing off of the textbooks, I realize I am most impressed by Rwanda’s vision of the future. Implementation of a community health program is extremely apropos for the country’s heath needs, and the architects of the Clinical Officer program have specifically designed a curriculum based to address the needs of the Rwandan people.

“As allied health professionals worldwide must learn from each other, share our experiences, and curricula,” Emmy said.

Marie Meckel, PA-C, MPH, is a physician assistant who works in Western Massachusetts. She spent a year in South Africa at Walter Sisulu University, where she taught clinical associates. Marie has spent the last year interviewing PAs and NPs, their international equivalents, and American PAs and NPs working abroad.  

Podcast produced by Brianne Aiken, Digital Content Editor, and Nicole BlazekSenior Clinical Content Editor.