Workforce Observatory

In sharing the lessons learned from our first eleven years we have come to understand the importance of moving from training children’s nurses, to building a workforce. The purpose of the children’s nursing workforce observatory is to produce the first comprehensive picture of the children’s nursing workforce across the southern African countries training children’s nurses, and to communicate this information to national stakeholders to inform the development of national workforce strategies and training plans.

Human resources for health information systems (HRHIS) need to develop to provide decision makers with information about where children’s nurses are working, how many are being retained within the workforce, and how they are contributing to improved health outcomes. Until recently many policies dealing with the nursing workforce have assumed that all nurses have similar qualifications and can be deployed interchangeably.

We have successfully conducted an initial survey and published the findings in the international journal Human Resources for Health1. Our next step will be to set up a robust new data collection system to collect information about the numbers of children’s nurses in practice, patterns of deployment, and the numbers being trained across partner countries. This will be designed to be compatible with in-country HRHIS and National Health Workforce Accounts, ensuring that additional data burdens are minimised in accordance with sound HRH ethical principles.

We are encouraged by the success of the first data collection exercise undertaken in 2017 and conclude that this relatively small cadre of the specialist nursing workforce will be most efficiently monitored through a collaborative approach to reporting, facilitated by one central coordinating institution. The Children's Nursing Development Unit is well placed to undertake this, in partnership with stakeholders in the countries involved.

1. North, N., Shung-King, M., Coetzee, M. The children’s nursing workforce in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, South Africa and Zambia: generating an initial indication of the extent of the workforce and training activity. Human Resources for Health. May 2019. Available at: