Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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Kenya’s Clinical Officer

Kenneth Ireri, Clinical Officer, Livingstone Nganga BS, Marie Meckel PA-C, MPH, Gerald Kayingo PhD, PA-C, Nadia Cobb MS, PA-C

The Clinical Officer profession can trace its beginnings back to 1928, making it one of the worlds oldest programs of Clinical Officers. This longevity has allowed them to make significant advancements professionally. It is currently estimated that Clinical Officers outnumber physicians and more importantly these professionals are found working mostly in rural settings where the need is greatest. 

Full project description: 

The Clinical Officer (CO) is a well-established profession in Kenya. The Clinical Officers Council  notes that to date they have registered over 13,000 CO’s. The WHO Kenya Health Profile shows 1.8 physicians per 10,000 population, with a population of 45 million.

COs were introduced by the British colonial government to provide health services in remote and less developed rural areas. After Kenya’s independence from Britain, the CO profession persisted and has become critical to the Kenya health system where they run most of the health centers [KMTCs, 2008 (website)] in especially in the rural areas but also in the urban centers as well.  COs tend to have more training than basic nurses but less than physicians. They also tend to specialize in certain areas of medicine like orthopedics, caesarian section, ENT, anesthesia and minor surgery. There are more COs than physicians, and their training cost significantly less than that of physicians.

The CO professional organization has worked hard to establish itself within the Kenyan health care system by making sure that there were established guidelines in place for training, registration and licensing for the CO.

There are over 35 training institutions across Kenya, The Mt. Kenya University was the first to offer degrees in 2009.  Kenya Medical Training College is where the initial training of CO’s started in 1928. 

CO program students are recruited from high school graduate pool. They receive 3 years training in clinical science and then do a mandatory 1 – 1.5 years internship at a government health center, mostly in the rural areas. There are two levels of training: the 3 yr. diploma in clinical medicine and surgery, and the 4 yr. bachelor of clinical medicine and community health. Both focus on community medicine and primary care, and both have clinical exposure by 2nd yr.

The COs have many opportunities to advance professionally. They can get specialized training in pediatrics, reproductive health, ophthalmology, orthopedics as well as in advanced surgical procedures such as C -sections, cataract surgery, hernia repairs, tonsillectomies and administering anesthesia.

The Kenyan Clinical Officers Association presented the act CAP260 to parliament, which established training registration and licensing for the CO under the Clinical Officers Council.

The Kenyan Clinical Officer is a well established in the health care system, and most importantly these professionals are found in rural areas where the need is greatest. Their training in primary care and community medicine and early clinical exposure prepares them for their work in these locations.

 

References:

Mbindyo, P., Blaauw, D., English, M. The role of Clinical Officers in the Kenyan health system: a question of perspective. Human Resources for Health 2013 11:32.

WHO Kenya: health profile http://www.who.int/gho/countries/ken.pdf?ua=1

Mullan, F and Frehywot, S. Non-physician clinicians in 47 sub-Saharan African countries. The Lancet, Volume 370, Issue 9605, Pages 2158 - 2163, 22 December 2007. DOI: doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)60785-5

Kenya Medical Training College   http://www.kmtc.ac.ke/Clinical-Medicine

Egerton University Bs in CO requirements and courses http://www.egerton.ac.ke/index.php/Clinical-Medicine-and-Surgery/bachelor-of-science-in-clinical-medicine.html

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