Strengthening mental health care: the power of coaching in Rwanda

Due to ongoing stigma and discrimination as well as long distances to treatment centers, many patients in Rwanda suffering from mental health conditions arrive at Ndera Neuropsychiatric Hospital in a chronic stage of illness with severe symptoms. Others have experienced relapses due to the discontinuation of therapy or medication. As a result, numerous patients require hospitalization and long-term follow-up care.

To help meet their needs, in 2014, Emmanuel, a senior mental health nurse at Ndera, was chosen by our partner Fracarita Belgium to become a coach at his hospital along with four other coaches selected at hospitals across the Great Lake Region. Through ongoing training, supervision and intervision, they are building their competence and skills in order to improve the quality of care and help guide and support other psychiatric nurses in their daily tasks. Several assistant coaches have also been trained in diverse hospital branches to help cope with the workload.

“The way I work has changed a lot since I started coaching. Not only is there a regular follow-up of individual nursing practices, but through the ‘intervisits’ I also receive support for my whole team. During intervision sessions, we exchange good ideas, but even more importantly, we share what hasn’t worked so we all can learn from what has failed in another hospital. Together, we have created uniformity in the different departments so the implementation of new programs goes more easily.”

Emmanuel has seen the difference Fracarita’s program has made for both his colleagues and patients, as well as its positive impact on the system as a whole. For staff, coaching has provided a clearer framework and increased skill-sharing, resulting in better organization, planning, patient follow-up and, ultimately, job performance. For patients, that equates to better quality and more balanced health care.

Emmanuel notes with pride, “It is compassionate and demanding work, but I feel valued and like I’m contributing to society.”