Students medical training
MSF Academy for Healthcare

What is the MSF Academy for Healthcare?

Over 90 per cent of MSF staff are recruited locally in the areas we work. To ensure we can provide quality care for our patients according to MSF standards and protocols of care, we are investing in the training and upskilling of local health workers through the MSF Academy for Healthcare.

Founded in 2017, the MSF Academy aims to significantly contribute to building the professional competencies of healthcare workers in countries where healthcare human resources are poor.

Today the MSF Academy for Healthcare runs clinical and public health trainings, linking up with academic institutions to accredit its courses. The Academy offers continuous professional development in several countries across sub-Saharan Africa, through on-the-job training and theoretical and practical instruction and mentoring, using innovative and informative methodologies.

Over the coming three years (2019-21), the MSF Academy for Healthcare will focus on four key areas: hospital nursing; anaesthetic nursing; strategic medical management; and infectious diseases.


Hospital nursing

The hospital nursing courses focus on countries where MSF runs hospital projects and faces significant shortages of qualified hospital nurses, with priority given to low-income countries. So far, we have programmes in South Sudan, Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Sierra Leone. All of these countries also face critical health shortages and gaps in resources, and are often burdened with high levels of disease.

The goal is to have at least 1,500 nurses trained or undergoing training across the four countries by 2021. The programme for Sierra Leone started in 2018 and serves as the basis from which the course is developed in other countries. Programmes in South Sudan and Central African Republic started in 2019.

In Sierra Leone, several projects were developed to respond to the needs of the new Kenema hospital, which specialises in paediatrics.

  • In January 2018, 50 Sierra Leonese health staff went to Ghana, half to study nursing and half to study midwifery, on a two-year programme in preparation for the second opening phase of Kenema hospital at the end of 2019.
  • In December 2018 and January 2019, 160 newly-hired health staff for Kenema hospital participated in Competencies Refresher Trainings lasting three to six weeks, which were tailor-made for the new hospital.
  • In mid-2019, a specific Continuous Medical Education programme will start for nurses in Kenema hospital.

In Central African Republic, the aim is to start with modular approaches in all of MSF’s 13 projects in the country in 2019.

  • Several key staff members at each project site will be trained to facilitate and transmit the training modules, each for four to six identified participants, with additional support from clinical mentors who will travel between the different projects.
  • An initial two-week training of some of these key staff is planned for July 2019, after which the trainings will be rolled out at project level.

In South Sudan:

  • Activities will start in July 2019 in Pibor with outpatient department (OPD) nursing training and clinical supervision. Trainings will also take place in Doro during 2019, and expand to more project sites in 2020.

All courses have a pragmatic and competency-based approach, directly linked to the quality needs of the projects. We have also engaged with health and academic authorities in each of these countries for their recognition of the courses and to potentially certify the the curriculum and learning achievements.

Anaesthetic nursing

Surgical activities are a significant part of MSF’s work in hospitals, but there are too few trained nurse anaesthetists to assist during surgeries in many countries where we work. The MSF Academy for Healthcare organises scholarship programmes for qualified nurses to become specialised in anaesthesia through partnerships with quality schools in Africa. This programme aims to train at least 30 English-speaking and French-speaking nurse-anaesthetists.

  • In March 2019, 16 English-speaking nurses from Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Yemen started an 18-month programme in the Ridge School for Anaesthesia in Ghana.
  • The training for French-speaking nurses is geared towards MSF staff and Ministry of Health staff from Central African Republic, and Ministry of Health staff from Chad. The first two-year programme will start in July 2019 at the Institut National de Formation des Agents de Santé (INFAS) in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire.

Masters course in Medical Management (180 credits)

Many MSF projects struggle to find experienced staff for medical management positions. The MSF Academy for Healthcare is developing a Masters-level programme tailor-made for MSF, in partnership with a university with extensive experience in Masters in Public Health courses.

  • The programme has been conceived around the competencies needed in MSF projects, and focuses on strategic management, quality analysis and support to the projects’ medical activities.
  • Participants will complete more than 80 per cent of the course while working in the field for MSF, supported by senior tutors.
  • The three-year-long course, with accreditation upon completion, is scheduled to start mid-2020 with the enrolment of the first annual batch of 20 students.

Post-Graduate Diploma in Infectious Diseases (120 credits)

Infectious diseases remain a major priority for MSF, and specific expertise in this field is often required in MSF projects, yet can be hard to find. A post-graduate diploma course, with content that is adapted to the clinical needs of MSF projects, will enrol an average of 15 medical doctors yearly. The course is currently under development and will be carried out in partnership with an African university.

  • The learning will mainly be based on practical clinical experience in the field (more than 60 percent), supported by specialised senior tutors and complemented by theoretical learning.
  • To complement the clinical exposure in MSF projects, participants will spend up to 20 per cent of their clinical time working as interns in non-MSF university teaching hospitals.
Lecturer in classroom with students
A lecturer teaches about the skills of disinfection to a classroom of MSF Academy for Healthcare students in Sierra Leone.
Ragnhild Sørheim/MSF


Bart Janssens, Director

[email protected]

Bart Janssens is a medical doctor with interest and experience in tropical diseases and internal medicine and holds a MSc in Public Health. He has worked for the ICRC as a medical coordinator, and for MSF as a clinician, medical coordinator and, from 2011 to 2018, as director of operations. As a director of operations, he saw the strategic importance of professionalising the learning and training of medical professionals in MSF. This motivated him to take up the role of director of the MSF Academy for Healthcare.

Sabine Rens, Project Manager

[email protected]

Sabine Rens has a degree in International Relations and Masters degrees in Development and in Demography. After a career in the private sector, she held coordination positions with MSF in several countries and worked at headquarters for the departments of Human Resources, Analysis and Operations. She has also worked as country representative for the Clinton Foundation HIV/Aids Initiative in Mozambique and she developed the on-call service for general practitioners in the Belgian capital, Brussels. Throughout her career, she has always had a special interest in the development of human resources in the health sector; joining the MSF Academy in October 2018 has allowed her to dedicate her energy to this.