Public Health Systems Mentoring (PHSM) scheme is an on-the-job training programme by UKHSA to develop a sustainable and competent workforce. In March 2022, UKHSA in collaboration with NIH Pakistan and Provincial/Regional Health Departments conducted a two-day Public Health Systems Mentoringtraining workshop. For the majority of the public health workforce in Pakistan, the concept of mentoring in public health is new. The objective of the PHSM scheme in Pakistan was to build knowledge, skills and behaviors of the public health workforce involved in IDSR implementation at federal, provincial and regional level. PHSM provided a perfect platform for mentors and mentees to grow and develop their skills in an environment of mutual benefit. UKHSA Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) delivered the training modules, and the in-country team facilitated the event by offering technical, administrative and logistical support. The Head of the IHR Strengthening Project, Dr Anne Wilson attended the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as a number of the training sessions.
Figure 1: Dr. Anne Wilson, Head of IHR Strengthening Project, UKHSA along with UKHSA and NIH team is giving shield to Dr. Jamil Ansari (National Focal Person, IDSR) for supporting PHMS training workshop
The PHSM scheme has brought public health practitioners together to learn in depth the objectives, process and outcome of a mentor/mentee relationship. To make the event productive and successful, SMEs, in-country teams and NIH worked jointly to plan and deliver the training workshop. The participant nomination process was led by the NIH, provincial and regional health departments to secure government ownership, while UKHSA in-country team facilitated the identification of suitable participants involved in IDSR implementation. A total of twenty-seven mentees and nineteen mentors were nominated. All forty-seven participants attended the two days PHSM training workshop from 14th to 15th, March 2022 in Islamabad. The participants were a mix of epidemiologists, surveillance officers, microbiologists/pathologists, scientific officers and health information experts. During training, SMEs focused on understanding of leadership skills, networking, developing relationships, working strategically, managing upwards and leading in uncertain, complex and challenging environments. The purpose of delivering these topics was to develop mentor & mentees qualities, skills and behaviours to engage peers and experienced colleagues to bring a different perspective to explain or solve any problem. The modules also highlighted the application of mentoring and its difference from supervision and sponsorship.
The PHSM scheme was a starting point of the journey to establish mentoring, peer advising and personal development to build the capacity of the IDSR workforce in Pakistan. The selection of participants was based on their ability to undertake a cross-sector leadership and management role to support organizational Theory of Change required for IDSR implementation. In the inaugural session, the Federal Director General Health Services appreciated the UKHSA initiative of creating this scheme. He reflected that ‘’mentoring and peer advice is an exciting and beneficial process to learn and share experience which ultimately leads to our goal of IDSR implementation in Pakistan’’. Feedback from participants was captured after the event which was overall very positive. A participant highlighted that, ‘’PHSM training workshop helped me to enhance my capacity to apply the concept of joint work to achieve substantial change in our careers by maximizing management skills, communication gaps, relationship building, dealing with seniors, work commitments and problem solving. Another participant appreciated the content of the training workshop commenting that ‘’what I learned in these two days, I believe will benefit me in reshaping my thinking pattern towards addressing challenges related to leadership and career development.”
Figure 2: Participant’s feedback on sticky notes from at the end of workshop on PHSM Scheme
The workshop activities and resources were organised by the UKHSA Pakistan team working with the SMEs. The in-country team facilitated SMEs to visualize each step of training workshop to ensure quality delivery and prepare for points/areas which participants might find difficult to understand. To ensure participation, it was decided that training modules would be delivered in an interactive style to encourage sharing of ideas and real time examples/stories from participants. Role plays and group activities were the vital interventions to motivate and engage participants to instill concepts of mentor/mentees relationship. A debrief at the end of each day by the workshop delivery team helped to identify and address areas for improvement. The idea to get participant’s feedback on sticky notes was discussed in a debrief session. The idea proved to be instrumental and yielded a healthy amount of participant feedback. Post training workshop activities were also decided in the planning phase of the PHSM scheme. As of today, follow up activities with mentors and mentees are in progress. The first phase of follow up activities is to get the detailed information of mentors and mentees on a standardized template. Once, all the information is received, the next phase is to create a central information database. The information database will serve to match a mentee with a suitable mentor. After matching, mentor and mentee will start a professional and interpersonal relationship to achieve predefined objective to enhance potential, skill and learning.
Figure 3: Group photo of workshop participants with Federal DG Health, UKHSA SLT/SME/In-country Team and NIH team