Transformative Education
for Health Professionals

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Uganda’s Clinical Officers

Gerald Kayingo PhD, PA-C, Emoit John Ekol CO,Nicholas Ssewankambwe, Susan Nalugo, Marie Meckel, MPH, PA-C, Nadia Cobb MS, PA-C

In Uganda, Clinical Officers trace their origins around 1918 when British born missionaries Dr. Albert Ruskin Cook and his wife Katharine Cook started training Africans to become skilled medical workers as medical assistants and midwives. In 1996, the title of Medical Assistants was officially changed to that of Clinical Officer. Their focus is to provide primary healthcare to rural communities (Banerjee, 2005)

Full project description: 

The training for the Ugandan Clinical Officer is three years post-secondary school (after completing the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education) and is comprised of clinical training at tertiary institutions. Each student is required to carry out a 4 weeks clinical hands-on training in the community from which a report is written and submitted to the institution where a student belongs. In addition to the community placement, students spend considerable amount time participating in clinical activities including; clerkship, carrying out investigation, planning for patients’ treatment as well as presenting to the physician in charge of a given unit or department throughout the training.

Upon graduation they receive a diploma in clinical medicine and community health. They then register with the Uganda Allied Professionals Council and start to practice. There are no required internships after graduation but some clinical officers undergo specialty training to become either Psychiatric Clinical Officers or Ophthalmic Clinical Officers. The training curriculum centers on the diagnosis and treatment of patients in primary healthcare as well as disease prevention and community health.

The majority of Clinical Officers work in rural settings performing patient assessment, disease management, triage, minor surgical procedures, and referrals to tertiary centers. They participate in community outreach, health education, screenings and care coordination. They are an integral part of district health services and health centers. The training and scope of practice is regulated by the Allied Health Professionals Council.

Although this cadre of professionals is playing a huge role in Uganda, there are very few opportunities for advancement or continuing medical education. They also lack on going supervision by experienced physicians. Those clinical officers who want to advance their knowledge to a University degree level, either have to apply and go through a rigorous admission process to medical schools and start from year one.

Uganda has huge burden of infectious diseases and one the most rapidly growing incidences of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in the world (Mondo et al. 2013). The capacity for managing these diseases is inadequate, and overwhelming. Upgrading Clinical Officers in the treatment of NCDs can help address these issues as they serve at the front lines of primary care in Uganda.



Banerjee, S., Faiz, O., Rennie, J. A., Balyejjusa, J., & Walsh, M. (2005). Bridging the health gap in Uganda: The surgical role of the clinical officer. African Health Sciences, 5(1), 86–89.

Mondo CK,  Otim MAAkol GMusoke ROrem J (2013). The prevalence and distribution of non-communicable diseases and their risk factors in Kasese district, Uganda. Cardiovasc J Afr. 24(3):52-7.


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