Background: Shifting the role of counseling to less skilled workers may improve efficiency and coverage of health services, but evidence is needed on the impact of substitution on quality of care. This research explored the influence of delegating maternal and newborn counseling responsibilities to clinic-based lay nurse aides on the quality of counseling provided as part of a task shifting initiative to expand their role.Methods: Nurse-midwives and lay nurse aides in seven public maternities were trained to use job aids to improve counseling in maternal and newborn care. Quality of counseling and maternal knowledge were assessed using direct observation of antenatal consultations and patient exit interviews. Both provider types were interviewed to examine perceptions regarding the task shift. To compare provider performance levels, non-inferiority analyses were conducted where non-inferiority was demonstrated if the lower confidence limit of the performance difference did not exceed a margin of 10 percentage points.Results: Mean percent of recommended messages provided by lay nurse aides was non-inferior to counseling by nurse-midwives in adjusted analyses for birth preparedness (β = -0.0, 95% CI: -9.0, 9.1), danger sign recognition (β = 4.7, 95% CI: -5.1, 14.6), and clean delivery (β = 1.4, 95% CI: -9.4, 12.3). Lay nurse aides demonstrated superior performance for communication on general prenatal care (β = 15.7, 95% CI: 7.0, 24.4), although non-inferiority was not achieved for newborn care counseling (β = -7.3, 95% CI: -23.1, 8.4). The proportion of women with correct knowledge was significantly higher among those counseled by lay nurse aides as compared to nurse-midwives in general prenatal care (β = 23.8, 95% CI: 15.7, 32.0), birth preparedness (β = 12.7, 95% CI: 5.2, 20.1), and danger sign recognition (β = 8.6, 95% CI: 3.3, 13.9). Both cadres had positive opinions regarding task shifting, although several preferred 'task sharing' over full delegation.Conclusions: Lay nurse aides can provide effective antenatal counseling in maternal and newborn care in facility-based settings, provided they receive adequate training and support. Efforts are needed to improve management of human resources to ensure that effective mechanisms for regulating and financing task shifting are sustained.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Health Policy
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health Informatics