“There are people in the hospital who are working [to provide healthcare], but not so much in the communities. But these communities need people to serve them, to give them life. I thought that by joining Last Mile Health, I could help.”
In 2012, Zonnoh Wright – a recent Nursing School graduate – was serving refugees from the Ivorian Crisis by working with an NGO in her father’s home county, Grand Gedeh. Zonnoh and her team would run mobile clinics in underserved areas of Grand Gedeh, and provide health services to refugees living in Solo Refugee Camp. It was at this time that she learned about Last Mile Health’s work in Konobo District.
Zonnoh had developed a friendship with Alice Johnson, another nurse and member of the Last Mile Health team who was working as a Clinical Mentor in Konobo. Alice explained Last Mile Health’s approach to serving communities, based around professionalized Community Health Workers (CHWs) supervised weekly by CHW Leaders and provided with clinical coaching and ongoing training by Clinical Mentors. When an opportunity to work with Last Mile Health as a Clinical Mentor arose in late 2013, Zonnoh decided to apply. “Alice motivated me to do it.”
Zonnoh was brought on as a Clinical Mentor in January 2014, and together with fellow Clinical Mentor and Nurse Momodu Kromah, she now leads the delivery of services in Konobo District where she works with CHW Leaders and their supervisees.
Zonnoh splits her time between the field and the Konobo site office. She believes her role as a link between these locations is key, reflecting the link built into Last Mile Health’s model between communities and the health facility. In the field, Zonnoh checks in with CHWs, coaching them to provide better care, checking that they are supplied with the right equipment and medication, and supporting them to recommend referrals to the facility for more complex cases. She conducts follow-up visits with patients to ensure that CHWs are serving children and mothers in the way they have been trained to, ensuring that no cases fall through the cracks.
When she returns to the office in the central town of Ziah, where the only health facility in the district is located, Zonnoh meets weekly with her co-Clinical Mentor and the four CHW Leaders serving Konobo, follows up on referred cases, tracks the status of mothers who have come to the clinic to deliver, and communicates medical supply requests from CHWs to the logistics team to ensure they are adequately equipped.
Zonnoh’s work presents numerous challenges. “The long distance is an obvious one, but it is indeed very challenging,” and long days visiting CHWs in the most remote communities are often followed by nights in the field. Zonnoh’s dedication pulls her through. In recommending what values would be important for working successfully as a Clinical Mentor, she describes how “you have to have love for the job, and the people you’re serving.” Zonnoh reflects on the need to work together and communicate across the team, both key components of her work to support CHWs as they strive to deliver the highest quality of care and to build strong and lasting relationships with the local health facility.
As Last Mile Health scales its model to new villages that are hours to days from the nearest clinic, Zonnoh’s advice will be critical for new Last Mile Health staff taking on similar roles. “Be very proactive in doing your work. You should have the [interests of the] community at heart, and put the entity first. Our mission and vision should be prioritized. Equally so, you should think big, asking, ‘how best can I help the [organization] to grow and be better in the future?’”
Zonnoh’s work is at the heart of Last Mile Health’s efforts to provide high quality primary care services in communities through well-supported CHWs, and to strengthen linkages to clinics for more effective care of expectant mothers and referred cases.