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Policy talk: incentives for rural service among nurses in Ghana

Publication Abstract

Kwansah, J., M. Dzodzomenyo, M. Mutumba, K. Asabir, E. Koomson, M. Gyakobo, P. Agyei-Baffour, M. Kruk, and Rachel C. Snow. 2012. "Policy talk: incentives for rural service among nurses in Ghana." Health Policy and Planning, 27(8): 669-676.

Like many countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Ghana is faced with the simultaneous challenges of increasing its health workforce, retaining them in country and promoting a rational distribution of staff in remote or deprived areas of the country. Recent increases in both public-sector doctor and nurse salaries have contributed to a decline in international out-migration, but problems of geographic mal-distribution remain. As part of a research project on human resources in the Ghanaian health sector, this study was conducted to elicit in-depth views from nursing leaders and practicing nurses in rural and urban Ghana on motivations for urban vs rural practice, job satisfaction and potential rural incentives. In-depth interviews were conducted with 115 nurses selected using a stratified sample of public, private and Christian Health Association of Ghana (CHAG) facilities in three regions of the country (Greater Accra, Brong Ahafo and Upper West), and among 13 nurse managers from across Ghana. Many respondents reported low satisfaction with rural practice. This was influenced by the high workload and difficult working conditions, perception of being 'forgotten' in rural areas by the Ministry of Health (MOH), lack of professional advancement and the lack of formal learning or structured mentoring. Older nurses without academic degrees who were posted to remote areas were especially frustrated, citing a lack of opportunities to upgrade their skills. Nursing leaders echoed these themes, emphasizing the need to bring learning and communication technologies to rural areas. Proposed solutions included clearer terms of contract detailing length of stay at a post, and transparent procedures for transfer and promotion; career opportunities for all cadres of nursing; and benefits such as better on-the-job housing, better mentoring and more recognition from leaders. An integrated set of recruitment and retention policies focusing on career development may improve job satisfaction and retention of nurses in rural Ghana.

DOI:10.1093/heapol/czs016 (Full Text)

Country of focus: Ghana.

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