Psychological support for maternal health providers in Sierra Leone

Within the broader response to the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Sierra Leone, CMNH aims to support the Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) in providing psychological support to healthcare providers working in maternal and newborn health services.

In partnership with VSO, and with the support from specialist consultants, we will work within the three districts of Bo and Western Areas, to establish mechanisms of support for healthcare providers working in CEmONC (3) and selected BEmONC (15) facilities.

The proposed activities are outlined below:

Situational analysis on psychological conditions among healthcare workers

CMNH will work with national and international expert consultants and with VSO in-country staff to adapt currently available stress assessment tools to the Sierra Leone context. CMNH and VSO in country staff will receive a one-day training on how to use the psychological assessment tool from the recruited consultants and from CMNH experts based in Liverpool.

Following pilot testing of the tool, CMNH and VSO will conduct a baseline assessment of the psychological conditions of healthcare workers in the targeted facilities. The baseline assessment will use self-reported questionnaires and be distributed to all the healthcare staff working in the targeted facilities.

Training of CMNH and VSO staff in psychological support

A one-day training package will be designed/adapted by selected consultants and CMNH experts, to address the following issues: recognising stress; the physical, emotional, behavioural and psychological effects of stress; how to develop coping mechanisms.

The training package will be used at project inception to build the capacity of CMNH and VSO in country teams (10 participants in total) in providing psychological support.

This activity will also serve to test the training package within the local context.

Training of health managers from the targeted facilities in psychological support

We will train health managers from the selected target districts, including: Medical Superintendents (MS) and nurses in-charge of maternity unit/Matron in-charge from CEmONC facilities; District Medical Officers (DMO) and District Health Sister/Community Health Officers from BEmONC facilities.

In total, we anticipate to train 36 health managers from the targeted facilities within the three districts. The objective of training managers is to get ownership and support from the relevant facilities so that they can provide supportive environment in managing stress among their staff.

Training of para-counsellors in psychological support of healthcare workers

A similar training programme will be offered to staff at the DHMT, CEmoNC and BEmONC level, in order to support the establishment of a network of para-counsellors, who will provide psychological support to healthcare workers.

The para-counsellors will train all other staff members in the targeted facilities in stress management. The programme aims to identify and train two para-counsellors per facility (36 participants from total targeted facilities).

Developing a peer support network in stress management

CMNH staff and external consultants will work with MoHS and facilities to develop a confidential referral mechanism for staff to access the support workers.

Monitoring and evaluation

CMNH staff and external consultants will work with VSO to develop a context-specific monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework to assess the effectiveness of the training programme. A follow-up stress survey which is the repetition of baseline assessment on stress will be conducted two months after the training and at the end of the project.

Reporting and dissemination

The results of the project will be shared with key stakeholders in Sierra Leone. They will include RCH directorate from the MoHS and members from the Reproductive and Child Health Technical Coordination Committee, NGOs and UN.