Project #8750

Train new health workers in Ethiopia: Save lives!

by IntraHealth International

This project supported the training of community nursing students in Ethiopia's Alkan Health Science College. Originating from rural communities, the nursing students completed a 36-month program at Alkan's Dessie campus in the rural highlands of the Amhara region. In addition to formal medical training, these students also gained a concrete understanding of the importance of returning to their remote communities after graduating in order to increase access to primary health care services.  

Many of these students have first-hand experience of how challenging it can be to find a health worker when a family or community member is facing a medical emergency. IntraHealth International has been helping Ethiopia to strengthening the country’s systems to train, manage, recruit, post, and retain a high-quality and equitably distributed health workforce, yet much remains to be done to ensure every family has access to high-quality, integrated health services. The country’s health system continues to face challenges and human resources for health are both insufficient and poorly distributed, leaving many—particularly rural communities—without access to trained and supported health workers.

While the effort to scale up the health workforce in Ethiopia is ongoing, this project has had a positive impact increasing the number of health workers. This project has come to a close but it is our hope that the students who received training will inspire others to seek similar opportunities.

IntraHealth is extremely appreciative of the support this project received. We encourage our donors and supports to check out our other project on Global Giving, “Restore Dignity to Women in Mali.” Please also follow us on Facebook ( and Twitter (@IntraHealth). You can also stay in touch by signing up for our newsletter:

Ethiopian Nursing Students at Graduation
Ethiopian Nursing Students at Graduation

Originating from rural communities, six nursing students studying in Ethiopia's Alkan Health Science College know firsthand the importance of increasing access to primary health care services. They have witnessed the detrimental impact that the lack of access to health workers and health facilities has on their community.

When nursing student Almaz was asked why she decided to become a nurse she said, “to help people who are sick and need help and to reduce the risk of [illness] caused by lack of health professionals.” She was also asked about her plans after graduation. “Most of my colleagues and classmates have a plan to upgrade their profession to a degree level and I am one of them. This will be possible after one year of experience. We plan to fulfill the requirements for the upgrading program and I expect that we will stay connected after graduating in such a way.”

Fellow nursing student Fatuma decided to become a nurse after she “observed that there are people who are suffering from lack of health professionals and health infrastructure.” When asked how she would stay in touch with her colleagues she said, “I hope to stay connected with my colleagues and classmates through our professional associations.” Her hope for the future is, “to help people with my profession together with God.”

When asked what motivated her to become a nurse, nursing student Tsehay said, “I decided to become a nurse to help humans. I observed that people in my locality, even in my family, have no idea about the scientific medication. Hence, I like to be part of the health professionals to help those people and to give awareness on the importance of the scientific medications.” She notes that part of this challenge will include educating her community of the limitations of some of the traditional medical practices.

Nursing student Haymanot said she was motivated to become a nurse to make a positive impact in her community, but also has ambitions to improve the medical community on a grander scale. In her words, “I am motivated to give service for the community and my country in the health profession.” She, like Almaz, Fatuma, and Tsehay, plans to stay connected with her colleagues in the years following graduation through professional associations.

“I was motivated to become a nurse in my local area Afar Region as there are no health professionals [there currently]”said nursing student Hawa. She continues, “I observed people suffering from lack of these professionals. Hence, I need to be part of this profession to help those people.”

Eyerus, who is currently studying to become a nurse, hopes to expand her training after graduation. She sees her nurse training as a first step towards her goal to become a medical doctor. “My hope was to be a doctor, but since I was not successful with the ESLCE result I planned to be a nurse and then upgrade my profession.”

These students are dedicated to improving access to health care by becoming a health worker themselves and are committed to returning to their native communities as that is where their motivation was born.

The nursing students at Alkan University have almost completed their training and are beginning to look towards the future and their interactions with Ethiopia’s professional health councils, and also think about how they will stay in contact as they move back to their home towns or other rural communities in Ethiopia to practice.

Part of their training includes interactions with a variety of health professional organizations, though the majority of their first three years of training was spent on studies, as Tsehay points out: “In the last three years I gave my major time to my education and I had no time to interact with professional associations. But now I am on the way for graduation and can participate in different professional activities.” These activities include both professional groups organized under the ministry of health and the government, and non-governmental associations. Every student, in order to get their professional license, is required to join the government organized system. This way, all health workers in the country are registered, and the government can best identify where more health workers are needed.

The students are now eagerly preparing for their last certification examination, which will allow them to practice. Eyerus says, “I am prepared to take the last COC examination which is a prerequisite to get my professional license from the above mentioned organization and be part of the health professionals.”. These professional organizations are also the main way the students anticipate staying in touch with one another.

Almaz even talks about pursuing an advanced degree in nursing, and shares this goal with many of her colleagues. She comments, “Most of my colleagues and classmates have a plan to upgrade their profession to degree level and I am one of them. This will be possible after one year experience…I expect that will help me stay connected with my colleagues and classmates after graduation.”.

Having strong professional organizations help build Ethiopia’s health worker work force and we are so proud of these students for becoming a part of these many organizations.

Being a nursing student in Ethiopia presents all kinds of challenges, from supply shortages, to long commutes, to difficult-to-reach locations, but it also brings many rewards. This quarter, the students at Alkan University reflect on their experiences in the health facilities, what they have observed, and how they feel they are making a difference in saving lives.

When asked about the health facilities, every student observed and reflected on the inadequacies they witness. From supply shortages to lack of training facilities, the students encountered challenges in the facilities where they worked. Haymanot notes, “the institution has a shortage of the necessary equipment and no learning center for the demonstration of different cases so that students are able to discuss [with] each other.” However, she also adds that despite these shortages, the health professionals at each facility do their best to care for their patients. “The health institution provides an excellent service to its customers. The health professionals are so nice and they treat their patients appropriately.”

Despite these shortages, working with and learning from other health professionals has proved to be very rewarding during these clinic visits. Tsheay says, “it is the cooperation of many stakeholders which has a great contribution in saving lives. Out of these, the health professionals at the health facility are the most important. During my stay at the health facility I [had a] good relationship with this health professionals and got a good skill by observing what they were doing, asking them about things which were new to me, and share[ing] their experience.”

But, what has been most rewarding for each of the students is learning how to be a nurse, and witnessing the impact nurses can have on their patients. Almaz reflects, “the profession I am learning taught me how to work with patients. I am satisfied when I am giving care to them even in difficult circumstances.” She looks to the future and what she hopes to accomplish in the coming years as a nurse, and what impact she can have on improving patient care. “I am having the vision to support and keep patients safe and healthy. To drive progress on the way care is provided, I am focused on improving the coordination and integration of health care, engaging patients more deeply in decision-making and improving the health of patients with a priority on prevention and wellness. These major strides in patient safety are a result of strong, diverse coordination and active engagement of the health professionals, patients, and families. I feel that I am one of these concerned bodies to make a difference in saving lives.”

Thank you to the nursing students at ALKAN University for sharing your reflections with us and being the stakeholders that create change. And to those who support these students and our continued mission to serve as champions of the frontline health worker, thank you too. To learn about other ways IntraHealth International is empowering frontline health workers, visit us at or sign up to receive our news and updates.


Happy New Year from Tsehay, Fatuma, Hawa, Almaz, Eyerus, and Haymanot at Alkan University in Ethiopia! These nursing students at Alkan University have just finished a busy semester, where they began interacting with patients more closely, and practicing the skills they have been studying and learning over the course of their training.

We asked the students to report back on some of the interactions they had with their patients and the challenges they faced after completing this past training block. From challenging client cases, to administering medications, to consultations on what family planning option is best, the nursing students have been utilizing the skills they learned in the classroom, in the field.

Fatuma told a story about her apprenticeship at a health station, where her training helped her properly care for a client and respond quickly to a crisis. She was working with a patient who suffered anaphylactic shock after administering a dose of penicillin: “One day a patient was coming to take penicillin medication. I was alone and it was my first time to inject that medicine. I gave her and the patient went into shocked. But I immediately I gave adrenaline and she recovered.”

Tsehay talked about a problem many health care providers in the US talk about as well. The challenge she discussed was clients not taking the full course of their medications. Despite this she says “[nursing] taught me how to work with patients. I am happy working with patients. I am satisfied when I am giving care to them even in difficult circumstances.”

Almaz told of an instance when she was administering vaccines during her apprenticeship and faced reluctance from the client. “When I was attending my cooperative training at the health center, I was in the EPI room to give vaccine. One mother was not voluntary to give the vaccine for her child…I aware her that no problem would have happened and she became voluntary.” Almaz learned that by sharing her knowledge, she can ease fears and help the community.

Regardless of the challenges, all of the students mentioned their love of the profession and their relationship with the clients. Hawa says about her clients, “My relationship with them is friendly. I communicate with them, giving care and help them as much as I can in an ethical manner.”

To our donors, thank you for your continued support of these incredible women. And to our nursing students, thank you for sharing your stories with us and best of luck as you complete your year!


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Organization Information

IntraHealth International

Location: Chapel Hill, NC - USA
Website: http:/​/​​
Project Leader:
Nola Paterni
Development Officer
Washington, DC United States

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Combined with other sources of funding, this project raised enough money to fund the outlined activities and is no longer accepting donations.

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