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Published online by Cambridge University Press: 02 November 2020
Background: Trained infection prevention and control (IPC) practitioners are critical to reducing healthcare-associated infections (HAI) and improving patient safety. Despite having HAI rates 3 times higher than high-income countries, many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) lack trained IPC professionals. During the 2014–2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MoHS) recognized this need and appointed and trained IPC focal persons at all district hospitals. Following the outbreak, MoHS requested assistance from the US CDC to develop and implement a comprehensive IPC training program for IPC specialists. Methods: The CDC, alongside its partners, convened a multidisciplinary team to develop an IPC certificate course. ICAP led the curriculum development process using a “backwards design” approach, starting with development of competencies and learning objectives, then designing an evaluation framework and learning strategies, and finally, identifying course content. The curriculum was based on existing resources, primarily designed for high-income countries, which were adapted to the Sierra Leone context and aligned with national IPC policies and guidelines. Additionally, an IPC steering committee, led by MoHS, was established to provide national leadership and oversight and make country-level decisions regarding accreditation and career pathways for IPC specialists. Results: The course includes three 2-week workshops over 6 months consisting of classroom didactics and hands-on activities. Topics include standard and transmission-based precautions, microbiology, laboratory, HAI, quality improvement, leadership, and scientific writing. Between sessions, participants conduct IPC activities at their work site and share results during subsequent workshops. Participants receive electronic tablets, which contain course content, assessment tools, and references, to upload their work into a cloud-based storage system for facilitators to provide feedback. They also receive in-person mentorship and connect with peers through a group messaging platform to share lessons learned. Participants’ knowledge and skills are assessed using a before-and-after test and observing them perform IPC practices using standardized checklists. The first cohort of 25 participants will complete the course in November 2019. Conclusions: The IPC certificate course is the first comprehensive, competency-based IPC training in Sierra Leone. Successes, challenges, sustainability, and lessons learned remain to be determined; however, based on similar models, the course has the potential to significantly improve IPC in Sierra Leone. Additionally, it is a model that can be replicated in other resource-limited settings.
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