The Value of Accreditation
Findings from Our External Evaluation
In 2020, TEPHINET Accreditation underwent an external evaluation which found, overall, that the accreditation process is “thorough, objective, and effective in assessing the strengths of FETPs and offering paths to improvement in gap areas.” All stakeholders involved in the evaluation found the accreditation process to be complex and challenging but highly worthwhile. There was considerable agreement among all stakeholders that accreditation leads to an increase in status for an FETP.
Many programs reported that the process led to improvements in their management and operations. The majority of programs that received an accreditation site visit reported finding the site visit to be highly productive and useful in terms of better understanding their own programs and seeing opportunities for improvement.
Brazil Field Epidemiology Training Program
“As an important national strategy for strengthening health surveillance and emergency response actions in public health, TEPHINET's accreditation of EpiSUS (FETP Brazil) in 2017 was instrumental in bringing recognition to the quality and importance of the program.
The accreditation process, in all its stages, requires commitment and dedication on the part of all those involved, including managers, supervisors, trainees, partners, and, above all, flexibility and willingness to review and re-adjust the processes of conducting the program, according to the indicators established for Field Epidemiology Training Programs, recommended by TEPHINET.
It required months of preparation, from submission to the arrival of the review team, which culminated on September 3, 2017, with the certification that represented the highest award received by the program. Being an internationally accredited program has provided EpiSUS an opportunity for improvement in all directions, including strengthening its institutionalization and contributing to its sustainability.
EpiSUS was established in 2000 by the Brazilian Ministry of Health in collaboration with the U.S. CDC. The program has trained 140 health professionals, and eight are in training, totaling 15 cohorts. Since its inception, the program has prioritized the response to public health emergencies, having worked on pandemic influenza, Zika virus and its consequences, yellow fever, measles and mass gatherings, producing evidence for decision making.”
Colombia Field Epidemiology Training Program
“The accreditation process meant organizing information in a better way, improving the base documents of our program, internally verifying that we were complying with our processes, guaranteeing greater satisfaction for the current residents and fully supporting the [residents’] graduation…This also led us to reflect, to think about what we wanted and how we could improve. It led us to think about what we would be like in the next five years.”
-Dr. Maritza González, FETP Colombia Coordinator
“The key is to recognize that we make mistakes, that we are very good in the field, in pedagogy, and in what we produce, but that we must stop and review our standards, our procedures, our quality criteria. Programs must prepare themselves to be better, to accept the challenge; at last, the reward is great. Being an accredited program really puts you in the big leagues.”
-Dr. Franklyn Prieto, FETP Colombia Director
Egypt Field Epidemiology Training Program
"Egypt FETP was established in 1993 in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with the specific goal of reducing the burden of major public health problems through building a cadre of well-trained professional public health workers. To achieve this goal, we needed to have external independent recognition of our adherence to established quality standards and the robustness of our training program, and how it competently achieves its goal.
Accreditation focuses attention on the areas of greatest need and identifies strengths and gaps in the programs and processes. It improves quality outcomes, establishes facilities' commitment to higher standards, and gives them a competitive edge. It strengthens relationships with key partners in other sectors and strengthens the utilization of resources.
To be accredited, programs undergo a long, extensive process starting with continuous preparation to be ready for accreditation, followed by application (including submission of all required documents), field visits to validate these documents, and ending with final review from the TEPHINET Global Accreditation Body (GAB).
Is it worth it? Of course, YES!
By being accredited,
- The reputation of the Program is enhanced nationally and internationally.
- It provides the opportunity, at the time of the accreditation assessment, to receive constructive feedback from well-trained and skilled peers (the Accreditation Review Team).
- It is also an opportunity to learn of best practices that may be adopted by the program.
- Staff morale is improved as they are made aware of the program meeting high standards in all procedures.
Benefits of accreditation for residents and mentors include:
- Assurance that the quality of the training and supervision meets or even exceeds international standards.
- Confidence that the same level of training and supervision is available for upcoming cohorts enrolled in the program at all its levels.
- Assurance that there is a quality improvement process in place that will lead to continually improved training and supervision.
Lessons learned from the TEPHINET Accreditation Process:
- Improve documentation process
- Continuously reassess and improve your program (either self-assessment or independent one)
- Enhance collaboration with all relevant stakeholders
- Engage more sectors within and outside the Ministry of Health
- Better utilization of resources
- Better promotion of the program, especially with the academic institutions."
Epidemic Intelligence Service
Dr. Eric Pevzner, PhD, MPH (CAPT, USPHS), Chief of the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) program at CDC, describes the value of TEPHINET accreditation for EIS. EIS was accredited by the TEPHINET Global Accrediting Body in 2016.
Ethiopian Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program
The Ethiopian Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (EFELTP) started in 2009 as a two-year competency-based training program. For the past decade, it has trained advanced-level field epidemiologists including physicians, laboratorians and veterinarians, environmental health and hygiene professionals, nurses, and health officers. The EFELTP evolved from an initial collaboration of multiple institutions, including with Addis Ababa University, the Ethiopian Public Health Association and the Ministry of Health, through cooperative agreements with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2015 the EFELTP expanded to include an additional seven universities and 45 field bases.
In preparation for applying to the sixth cycle of TEPHINET accreditation, EFELTP took the readiness assessment in August 2021 to ensure that the program met eligibility criteria. This step was very crucial and important because it helped the program reflect on the key indicators to achieving accreditation, as well as to identify gaps and institute corrective measures. The program submitted letters of intent and certification of eligibility when the sixth cycle of accreditation was announced and proceeded with the official application once approved by TEPHINET. The application process was very comprehensive since it involved documentation on all aspects of the program including recruitment, training, mentorship, supervision, staffing, and stakeholder engagement.
After the submission of application documents to TEPHINET’s online system for review by the Accreditation Review Team (ART), it was time for a site visit. The ART visited the EFELTP in July 2022 for face-to-face visits with the program and its partners. During their visit, the ART interacted with and interviewed faculty and staff of the EFELTP, alumni, mentors and supervisors, and stakeholders from the St. Paul Millennium Medical College, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopian Public Health Institute, and Public Health Emergency Management. The site visit created the opportunity for the review team to have full access to documents, as well as opportunities for stakeholder engagement.
Upon thorough assessment of the program documents, mentorship, and stakeholder engagements, the EFELTP was accredited in September 2022 at the 11th TEPHINET Global Scientific Conference in Panama City.
Accreditation helps strengthen systems and structures in programs. It helps identify program strengths and weaknesses and provides feedback for quality improvement.
Accreditation has helped to strengthen our program’s documentation and mentorship and has fostered stronger collaboration with partners. Global accreditation is very important and critical for every FELTP. Accredited programs enjoy many benefits, and we highly recommend TEPHINET accreditation. Being one of the few FELTPs accredited in Africa has put the program on a higher pedestal. It has increased the confidence partners have in the program, as well as improved collaboration.
EFELTP is one of the largest programs globally, and accreditation has provided huge confidence to the program partners as well as program staff.
-Dr. Zegeye Hailemariam, National EFELTP Program Coordinator
Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program
Dr. Ernest Kenu, Director of the Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program (GFELTP) describes the value of TEPHINET accreditation for the program.
" The Ghana Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Programme (GFELTP) started in 2007 as a two- year competency-based training program. For the past decade it has trained advanced level field epidemiologists comprising of physicians, laboratorians and veterinarians. The GFELTP evolved from an initial collaboration with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) through cooperative agreements with the University of Ghana School of Public Health, Ghana Health Service/Ministry of Health (MoH) and Veterinary Services Directorate.
TEPHINET accreditation is an opportunity for FETPs to align with common standards that support quality training and increase recognition of their value in supporting country public health priorities. The GFELTP had a strong desire to obtain global accreditation since the launch of the first cycle of accreditation by TEPHINET in 2016. After a self-assessment by the program in the last quarter of 2018, the program deemed it fit to apply.
In preparation for applying to the fourth cycle of TEPHINET accreditation, GFELTP took the readiness assessment in January 2019 to ensure the program met eligibility criteria. This step was very crucial and important because it helped the program reflect on the key indicators to achieving accreditation (Management, Infrastructure and Operations, Integration with Public Health Service, Staffing and Supervision, Selection and Training of Residents and Continuous Quality Improvement), as well as to identify gaps, and institute corrective measures. The program submitted letters of intent and certification of eligibility when the fourth cycle of accreditation was announced in February 2019, and proceeded with offiicial Application once approved by TEPHINET. The application process was very critical since it involved documentation on all aspects of the program including, recruitment, training, mentorship, supervision, staffing and stakeholder engagement.
After submission of application documents to TEPHINET for review, it was also important for a site visit by the Global Accrediting Body (GAB). The GAB visited the GFELTP in September 2019 for a face-to-face interaction with the program and its partners. During their visit, the GAB interacted with and interviewed faculty and staff of the GFELTP, alumni, mentors and supervisors, partners from the CDC, WHO, GHS, MoH and the University of Ghana. The site visit created the opportunity for the GAB team to have full access to documents at the Secretariat. It also created an opportunity for stakeholder engagement.
Upon thorough assessment of the program documents, mentorship, and stakeholder engagements, the GFELTP together with other three FELTPs were accredited in November 2019 at the 10th TEPHINET Global Scientific Conference in Atlanta.
Accreditation helps strengthen systems and structures in programs. It helps identify program strengths and weaknesses and provides feedback for quality improvement. Accreditation has helped to strengthen the program’s documentation and mentorship, and has fostered stronger collaboration with partners. Global accreditation is very important and critical for every FELTP. Accredited programs enjoy many benefits, and we highly recommend TEPHINET accreditation. Being one of the few FELTPs accredited in Africa has put the program on a higher pedestal. It has increased the confidence partners have in the program, as well as improved collaboration."
-Dr. Ernest Kenu, Ghana FELTP Director
Kenya Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program
“Kenya FELTP was started in 2004 as one of the first FELTPs in Africa. It started as a regional program offering training to the neighboring countries but eventually concentrated on training for Kenya. The program is anchored in the Ministry of Health (MOH) and supported by U.S. CDC. The program initially started as a two-year training program and, in 2014, started basic and intermediate level epidemiology training to increase the number of frontline health workers with the capacity to detect and respond in time to public health emergencies, strengthen surveillance, and use data for decision-making.
In January 2017, in preparation to apply for the second cycle of TEPHINET accreditation, we undertook the readiness assessment and realized that our program actually met the eligibility criteria to apply for accreditation. The step of readiness assessment is, in itself, very important as it helps the program team reflect on all the important components of the program, identify the gaps, and institute corrective measures.
The process of applying for and preparing for the accreditation review team visit helped us to understand our strengths and gaps. For example, we realized that all our information was with different people in different personal computers and there was no central repository. With support from CDC, we are finalizing a system which will help us track our residents’ activities and also act as a repository for all their deliverables. The fact that accreditation is not one-off activity and will be reviewed every five years is helping us to make sure quality processes are maintained and that major indicators are monitored and still meet the thresholds as defined by the accreditation team.
Despite being anchored as a division within the Ministry of Health and having adequate oversight from MOH leadership, we have realized the importance of the advisory committee especially in light of the need for sustainability and full institutionalization. It’s only after the accreditation process that we fully embarked on discussions regarding program sustainability and have currently formed the program oversight committee that will mainly discuss ways of ensuring this.
The value of the accreditation process is that it helps the program to strengthen the existing or develop quality FETP processes and maintain that quality over time. With quality processes, we hope to have quality products and quality graduates.
Our advice to other programs striving for accreditation is to do the readiness assessment as early as possible and work on any corrective measures needed to meet the eligibility criteria. Work as a team to ensure all materials needed for application are gathered in time. Coordinated preparation is key for both this step and the accreditation review team visit. Prepare, prepare and prepare!
Kenya FELTP is one of the first two programs in Africa to be accredited; this, in addition to the fact that our graduates have successfully set up FETPs in other African countries, has reaffirmed our belief that we have built a quality program, and we will work hard to sustain that.”
-Dr. Zeinab Gura, Kenya FELTP Director
Liberia Field Epidemiolgy Training Program
Liberia FETP Director Dr. Ralph Jetoh, shares the program's experience applying for and obtaining FETP accreditation, highlighting the importance of ensuring program quality and standardization. "If we have programs that are credible and eligible for accreditation, receive accreditation, this raises the standard of the global network of epidemiologists," Dr. Jetoh said.
Mozambique Field Epidemiology Training Program
"The Mozambique Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP) is a relatively young program; it was established by the Ministry of Health (MoH) in 2010. Coordinated by the National Institute of Health, in collaboration with the Public Health Directorate and the Faculty of Medicine of Eduardo Mondlane University and with the support of the Centers for Disease Preventive and Control (CDC), the program aims to train public health professionals to strengthen the National Health System's response capacity to public health emergencies, threats, and outbreak response through the motto “Learning by Doing.”
Our journey started when we received the announcement opening the new cycle for Advanced-level Accreditation in 2019. We were sure that going through this journey was the first step in our passion for quality. We embraced this challenge as a team, with optimism, and focused on meeting the minimum requirements for all aspects of accreditation in the five domains, including Management, Infrastructure, and Operations; Integration with Public Health Service; Staffing and Supervision; Selection and Training of Residents; and Continuous Quality Improvement. First, we had to restructure our team. Someone had to be responsible for field work activities, another for supervising internship placements and activities, another focused on scientific products; someone also had to be responsible for monitoring and evaluation, and someone else focused on our quality improvement system. There are only women on our team, but our teamwork and dedication were absolute.
Next, we self-conducted the readiness assessment performance against the standards. This was essential for us to reflect on our structure, goals, and performance. Then, we developed an action plan to close the gaps found through the self-evaluation.
After completing the eligibility and application phases, the final step was undergoing the site visit with the Accreditation Review Team (ART). We found that this was not only an opportunity for the external evaluators to review the application and interact with program staff members, mentors, supervisors, residents, graduates, steering committee members, faculty members, and MoH staff, among others, but also created a unique opportunity for us to learn more and gain more experience from the external evaluators.
TEPHINET’s FETP Accreditation not only serves as a quality assurance measure, but also as an accountability mechanism for the health system and the institutions that coordinate the FETP. We had all the leadership and partners supporting us to embrace this journey.
The perseverance and belief in what we are doing has been worth the journey so far. On September 9, 2022 we were awarded, by the Global Accreditation Body (GAB), as one of the Advanced FETPs that meet the standard requirement for TEPHINET Accreditation.
The time and effort invested in this process of obtaining the accreditation is worth it. It not only improved our system, procedures, and processes, but has also improved our contributions to the health system. In the end, we realized that becoming an Accredited FETP doesn’t mean that we are a perfect program, but it strengthens our newfound passion to improve every day."
-Cynthia Semá Baltazar, Director, Mozambique FETP
Philippines Field Epidemiology Training Program
Dr. Ma Nemia Sucaldito, program manager for the Philippines Field Epidemiology Training Program (FETP), describes the value of TEPHINET accreditation for the program. FETP Philippines was accredited by the TEPHINET Global Accrediting Body in 2017.
Sierra Leone Intermediate Field Epidemiology Training Program
The Sierra Leone FETP-Intermediate has become one of the first Intermediate FETPs accredited by the TEPHINET Global Accreditation Body (GAB).
In 2016, after the historic and catastrophic Ebola Virus Disease outbreak in West Africa, the Sierra Leone Ministry of Health and Sanitation (MOHS), in collaboration with the US CDC and the African Field Epidemiology Network (AFENET), launched the Sierra Leone Field Epidemiology Training Program with the FETP-Frontline level. One year later, in September 2017, the FETP-Intermediate was launched. To date, 264 public health professionals (in 12 cohorts) have graduated from the FETP-Frontline, and 69 public health professionals (in 5 cohorts) have graduated from the FETP-Intermediate.
As a program, we have always strived to implement the training using the standard curriculum prescribed by the US CDC. We had a strong desire to obtain global recognition and accreditation. In March 2022, we learned that TEPHINET had started the accreditation process for Intermediate programs. We immediately started the self-assessment to determine if our program met the minimum eligibility criteria for accreditation. From April 01 through April 10, 2022, we completed the TEPHINET Accreditation Readiness Assessment for Intermediate Programs, and found that our program met all the set eligibility criteria.
Based on the readiness assessment findings, we applied to participate in the first cycle of the Intermediate accreditation process, and our application was accepted. After the objective and rigorous review, including virtual orientations on the application for the eligibility certification, and multiple angles of assessment including a site visit by the Accreditation Reviewers, the Sierra Leone FETP-Intermediate has become one of the first Intermediate FETPs accredited by the TEPHINET Global Accreditation Body (GAB) in the world.
We are delighted and honored to the TEPHINET Accreditation Team, which has provided our program with the opportunity to align with common standards that promote quality training and recognize their value in strengthening the country’s public health system. Accreditation provides our graduates with the opportunity for global recognition and benefits; it demonstrates that Sierra Leone FETP has the technical and management capability to provide a high-quality training environment for FETP trainees.
Accreditation is a rigorous process, with several stages or cycles which assess the program’s overall quality based on key domains including Management, Infrastructure, Operations, Integration with Public Health Services, Staffing and Supervision, Selection and Training of Residents, and Continuous Quality Improvement. The overall aim of the accreditation process is to assess the program’s quality, whether it’s relevant to the public health system of the country, and if it has an impact on the public health system of the country. The accreditation process also helps you to assess your program’s strengths and identify your program’s weaknesses or areas of improvement. Accreditation requires continuously documenting best practices, identifying gaps, and applying continuous quality improvement principles to take corrective measures.
Indeed, TEPHINET accreditation has provided our program with formal recognition by the GAB, which increased our confidence and motivated our graduates.
The accreditation process has helped us ensure that graduates of the Sierra Leone FETP have acquired all the necessary formal preparation that meets internationally accepted standards and quality.
Accreditation requires teamwork, dedication, and commitment by all stakeholders, not only the technical program staff but also directors, program managers, administrative staff, and other governmental and non-governmental partners. Through the accreditation process, documentation is key to success! Documenting all activities and procedures of planning and implementation, from recruitment of trainees, to monitoring quality of the in-class workshops, field placement of trainees, mentorship quality, quality of trainees’ outputs, up to graduation and post-graduation utilization, and deployment of the graduates.
We recommend to all FETP programs that have not been accredited before to apply for accreditation. This process is not easy, it is so intense. However, you will come out of it better, and it is finally rewarding.
Finally, we would like to thank TEPHINET for providing us with all the technical and administrative support while we went through the accreditation process. We wish all the best to all FETPs that are applying for accreditation through TEPHINET.
-Gebrekrstos Negash Gebru (PhD), Resident Advisor, Sierra Leone FETP
South Africa Field Epidemiology Training Program
Khuliso Ravhuhali of the South Africa Field Epidemiology Training Program (SAFETP) describes the value of TEPHINET accreditation for the program. SAFETP was accredited by the TEPHINET Global Accrediting Body in 2018.
Tanzania Field Epidemiology and Laboratory Training Program
"TEPHINET’s FETP accreditation is of value to our program as it ensures the quality of our field epidemiology training by maintaining the minimum quality standards for field epidemiology training program. The entire accreditation process, including the five key stages, has made our program become committed and dedicated in all standard domains and their indicators, including: Management, Infrastructure and Operations; Integration with Public Health Service; Staffing and Supervision; Selection and Training of Residents; and Continuous Quality Improvement in our Program.
Accreditation has also increased our program’s credibility in field epidemiology and laboratory management both in country and globally. We have increased the number of enrollment for advanced course from 12-15 to 15-23 residents in a year. Some of our graduates have shown great potential and are currently serving regional and international public health agencies including African CDC, WHO and US–CDC.
Accreditation has created a culture of quality improvement within our program. This includes, but is not limited to, proper documentation, assessment of trainees and mentors, monitoring of residents while they are in field, and improved turnaround time between trainees and mentors/supervisors when responding to field work review. Obtaining accreditation has also increased trust in, and support for the program, as well as requests for collaboration when responding to public health emergencies.
TEPHINET accreditation gave us an opportunity to align with common standards that support quality training and recognition of our program’s value in supporting country public health priorities. During the process, especially during the preparation phase, we were required to provide details and information that gave us an opportunity to put more effort in improving the quality of our program since the driving force behind accreditation is quality improvement. Through the entire process, we were also able to identify our weaknesses and strengths. We had time to work on our weaknesses and address areas of improvement. Some indicators were difficult to address and to find evidence of improvement; however, in due process we were able to learn how to get evidence. For instance, assessing a turnaround time between trainees and mentors/supervisors in responding to field work review was not easy. Nevertheless, we managed through asking residents to make a printout of the email thread between them and their mentors/supervisors with regard to field work review.
We would encourage all programs to apply for TEPHINET accreditation since the accreditation process will help to improve the quality and integrity of their FETPs.
Once the program is motivated enough to plan for accreditation application it will undergo the first key stage—the accreditation readiness assessment. This stage will assist the program in gathering essential information on areas of its strengths and weaknesses. The program will get time to sustain its strengths and improve its weaknesses. It will also have an opportunity to ask and learn from an accredited program within its region, and receive regional support during the readiness assessment. In so doing, little by little, the program weaknesses will improve and they will gain confidence for application. At this stage the program will have good quality control and assurance, and will stand a high chance to be accredited."
-Dr. Rogath Kishimba, Tanzania FELTP Coordinator
Zimbabwe Field Epidemiology Training Program
"On the 24th of January 2018, the TEPHINET Global Accrediting Body reached the decision to confer full accreditation upon the Zimbabwe Field Epidemiology Training Program (ZimFETP), making it one of the eight programs to be accredited worldwide. With this accreditation, ZIMFETP became one of only three African countries to be accredited, along with Kenya and Cameroon. Receiving accreditation validated the program’s ability to provide essential public health services and training, and demonstrated the program’s commitment to quality improvement. Although the program has been in existence since 1993, the process of accreditation helped us to identify strengths to capitalize on, as well as weaknesses that would serve as areas of improvement.
The entire accreditation process was eye-opening and helped the program to be recognized and appreciated more.
Following accreditation of the ZimFETP by TEPHINET, the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE) also reviewed the program for accreditation. The ZIMCHE, which is responsible for providing criteria for accreditation of higher education institutions and programs in Zimbabwe, was pleased with how well the ZimFETP was structured, and that the program fostered competency-based learning. Having gone through the TEPHINET accreditation process, this internal review was seamless.
Currently, any institution of higher learning that wants to start an MPH-related program has to align 80% of its structure to the ZimFETP. This speaks of the high quality of training that is being rendered by the program. In addition, since receiving accreditation status, ZimFETP has hosted a number of countries such as Ethiopia, Zambia and Rwanda FETPs for ‘look and learn’ visits. These visits allowed the FETPs to learn from the best practices of the accredited program.
TEPHINET accreditation has indeed provided formal recognition by peers, both within the institution, across the country, and internationally, as cited from examples given above. The accreditation process has helped us ensure that graduates of the ZimFETP program have formal preparation that meets nationally and internationally accepted standards and quality.
We encourage all FETP programmes that have not been accredited to apply for accreditation. This process may seem intense, however, you can be rest assured that you will come out of it better. We wish all the best to all FETPs that have been encouraged by this testimonial and hope you have been moved to consider applying for TEPHINET accreditation."
-Ms. Tsitsi Juru, Technical Advisor, ZimFETP
Zambia Field Epidemiology Training Program
Zambia FETP was established in 2014 through a collaborative effort with the US CDC and the Ministry of Health. To date, 35 graduates (from four cohorts) of the Advanced FETP and 208 (from 11 cohorts) from the Frontline tier have graduated. The program was accredited in 2022. Since 2017, the program has been housed at the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI), a good home for FETP since the mandate of surveillance and disease intelligence is with the ZNPHI. Currently, the program runs two tiers–Frontline and Advanced FETP. Discussions are underway to introduce the intermediate tier as well. The program has dedicated staff, including a program director; a coordinator for Advanced tier; a coordinator for the Frontline tier; an administrator; four field mentors; a resident advisor from CDC; a public health specialist from CDC; and a fellow from CDC.
Motivation to get accredited
Zambia FETP is highly committed to contributing to global health security. The program, therefore, valued the recognition of accreditation to ensure its graduates are recognized as being of quality to contribute to global health security; they should be able to be deployed anywhere in the world in case of a global public health crisis. A graduate from Zambia FETP should have the same competencies as graduates from other accredited programs–this has been our biggest motivation to apply. In addition, Zambia hosts the Southern Africa Regional Collaboration Centre, and is therefore well placed to support regional field epidemiology training in countries that have not yet established FETPs. Neighboring countries would be motivated to send their staff for training to an accredited program.
Experience from the process
The process of applying for accreditation, from the intention to the site visit, took a lot of effort from the program staff, and engagement from steering committee members and field site supervisors. As a program, a lot of time was dedicated to conducting the self-assessment. The self-assessment exposed some of the gaps in the documentation of what residents were doing. The program was doing very well in being of value to the country’s public health disease intelligence, but did not document all the outputs in an organized way that could be assessed. Therefore, investment was made to improve the quality of documentation of field products; small grants from TEPHINET and AFENET assisted in the quality improvement process and preparation for the accreditation site visit. It is important that systems for documenting and filing all field products and program activities are put in place to capture events on a real-time basis; it can really be problematic to start looking for evidence that was never filed or documented.
The site visit
The site visit was well organized by TEPHINET with very clear instructions on expectations from both the program and assessors. The team of assessors were well experienced and they clearly pointed out what was going well, and what areas needed improvement. They didn’t just use a checklist to generate the evidence, but took time to mentor the staff and residents. Excellent examples from other countries were shared with the Zambia FETP so that lessons on best practices could be learned. The site visit experience was so well organized that it felt like a mentorship support visit for quality improvement.
Plans after accreditation
After getting accredited, the vision of the program now is to maintain quality and always be open to continuous quality improvement. It’s like the beginning of a new journey of running an accredited program, and we are looking forward to more and more quality improvement. To strengthen this aspect, job descriptions for field mentors now include conducting a quality improvement project per year.