Frontline radiographic human capital development : a case of Zambia and way foward
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The shortage of radiologists in Zambia has persistently made the provision of equitable access to optimum radiological services unattainable in the current radiological service delivery system, while equity in distribution of cost-effective and quality healthcare service as closer to the community as possible is at the core of Zambia’s vision in the National Health Strategic Plan. This vision is maintained in Zambia’s Sixth National Development Plan, for the period 2011 to 2015. The number of radiologists as low as three radiologists, for a population of thirteen million people, makes the possibility of ever providing optimum radiological services equitably accessible to the community unattainable, without launching and upholding a precise remedial intervention. The purpose of the study was to develop a framework for sustainable radiographic human capital developmental guidelines embracing advanced radiographic practice and optimum radiological services, with special focus on hospitals without radiologists. The objectives were to: a) analyse the existing radiographic services and/or practices in rural Zambian hospitals without radiologists; b) examine the views of radiographers, physicians, and patients in hospitals without radiologists, regarding adequacy of radiological service delivery; (c) determine desirable competencies for frontline radiographers in comprehensive radiological service delivery, as well as the benefits of such competencies to the community and the health service facilities; d) analyse the healthcare managements’ expectations regarding frontline radiographers’ capabilities in rendering comprehensive radiological services in healthcare settings without the radiologists, e) formulate, implement, and evaluate a training programme for radiographers for comprehensive radiological services; with specific references to client (physician and patient) satisfaction and radiographic competencies; and (f) develop a framework for human capital development for frontline radiographers in providing comprehensive radiological services. The Accenture Human Capital Development Framework (AHCDF) was employed as the theoretical framework to link all key aspects of the inquiry (Thomas, Cheese and Benton, 2003). An Action Research design was used involving multidisciplinary participation, including patients, in the five cyclical phases of the Action Research design; diagnosing, planning, acting, evaluating, and specifying learning. The route of knowledge generation and application was guided by retroductive or abductive cyclical logical process. The interviews, document analysis, and questionnaires were applied to obtain data, whereas a designed training programme for frontline radiographers was piloted and evaluated within this study. The study’s data management and analysis were largely by qualitative methods, though quantitative aspects involving percentages as in descriptive statistics were also involved where appropriate. The discussion, integrates the research findings under appropriate themes of the theoretical framework. An investment perspective in AHCDF is linked to ways of investing in radiographers’ education and training towards extended roles is discussed. The radiographers’ extended roles are seen as a catalyst to desirable radiological technology, radiological service designs, and corresponding radiological service outcome. The benefit of this proposed investment is seen as promoting equitable access to radiological services, with averted or reduced costs ascribed to referrals of patients among hospitals. Consequently, incomes of households and healthcare institutions would be preserved for poverty reduction by reduced referral-related costs. The researcher-devised frontline radiographic human capital developmental (FRHCD) conceptual framework is developed and a way forward recommended.