Building Trust and Empathy Around COVID-19: A Client-Centered Communication Approach [Course]

The role of a health care worker (HCW) is pivotal for quality health care delivery, demanding both competence and empathy. Despite being recognized as a trusted source for COVID-19 vaccine-related information, HCWs engaged and counseled their clients about COVID-19 testing and vaccine uptake infrequently. Moreover, according to Breakthrough ACTION’s in-depth interviews with HCWs in four states of Nigeria—Akwa-Ibom, Bauchi, Enugu, and Lagos—HCWs lack sufficient information on COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines. They also require more information on COVID-19 and vaccination. Recognizing the critical role HCWs play in vaccination decisions, the project identified a need to enhance their knowledge, attitudes, and communication skills.

In response to these challenges, Breakthrough ACTION initiated a comprehensive, multi-component intervention, “Building Trust and Empathy Around COVID-19: A Client-Centered Communication Approach.” This intervention aimed to enhance HCWs’ knowledge of and attitudes about COVID-19 and vaccines, improve communication skills and, in turn, client-provider interactions, and foster resilience to the stress induced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Building Trust and Empathy curriculum supplements the Nigeria Federal Ministry of Health’s National Interpersonal Communication and Counseling manual to equip health workers with tools to address vaccine hesitancy and promote COVID-19 prevention, testing, and vaccination as per national guidelines. This two- to three-hour long online course is adapted from a two-day in-person training.