Emory supports nursing reforms in Ethiopia, with guidance from Kenya

Woodruff Health Sciences Center | Sept. 4, 2020

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Shannon McCaffrey
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Two Emory students are helping to forge a historic partnership with colleagues in Kenya, aimed at improving health care in their own country, Ethiopia. 

Lemlem Demisse, RN, MSc, and Tefera Mulugeta, RN, MN, are Emory-Addis Ababa University  (AAU) PhD in nursing candidates. They also teach at the AAU College of Health Science School of Nursing and Midwifery. 

The pair say Ethiopia needs national regulations for nursing practice in order to create a system where they can practice safely, with the respect and collaboration of health care colleagues. They have turned to nursing leaders in neighboring Kenya, where regulations and guidelines have already been implemented.

“There is no such kind of nursing empowerment or independence here [in Ethiopia],” Lemlem says. “This starts with there being no clear-cut scope of practice. I can practice anywhere without licensure, or people asking me whether I am qualified. We need structure.”

“The Kenya partnership is a very nice opportunity for us,” she says. “If we create this regulatory body, people will care about nurses, and nurses will be able to develop their careers.”

Demisse and Mulugetta are members of the inaugural cohort of the AAU-Emory PhD in Nursing Program, the first nursing PhD program in Ethiopia and the first hybrid in-person/remote program in Africa. 

The effort will build on a transnational meeting which took place earlier this year in Kenya, with health care authorities there. Kenyan nurse leaders at the meeting included Agnes Waudo, former Chief Nursing Officer in Kenya and Country Director of the Emory University Kenya Health Information Systems Project (KHISP), and Edna Tallam, Registrar/CEO of the Nursing Council of Kenya.

The group is working to:

  • Develop a National Nursing Council that regulates practice and nursing scope
  • Advocate for a legal scope of practice for nurses and other healthcare professions
  • Institute nursing licensure and a national regulatory board
  • Create standards and processes for nursing licensure
  • Transition medical records systems from paper to electronic documentation (among other reforms)

As Ms. Lemlem and Mr. Tefera liaise across countries, they will continue to recieve ongoing mentorship and support from Martha Rogers, MD, Professor and Director of the Lillian Carter Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility. Dr. Rogers has played a key role in this undertaking, having worked for years in Kenya to help develop the Kenyan Nursing Workforce database system.

Abebe Gebremariam, MD, In-Country Director of the Emory-Ethiopia Field Office, Linda McCauley, RN, PhD, Dean and Professor, Emory School of Nursing, and Rebecca Gary, RN, PhD, Director of the Emory-AAU PhD in Nursing Program also have been instrumental in the execution of this effort. Emory School of Nursing and the Emory Global Health Institute provided the funding and logistics for the Ethiopian delegates’ travel and supported the meetings in Nairobi.

Among the parties in attendance at the meeting were: 

  • The Nursing Council of Kenya
  • Emory University-Kenya Health Information System Project
  • National Nurses’ Association of Kenya
  • Ethiopian Nurses’ Association
  • The Vice Chair of Ethiopian Professional Society
  • The Ethiopian and Kenyan Federal Ministries of Health
  • AAU-Emory PhD in Nursing Program