Why do people become health workers? Analysis from life histories in 4 post-conflict and post-crisis countries
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Witter, S., Wurie, H., Namakula, J., Mashange, W., Chirwa, Y. & Alonso-Garbayo, A. (2018) Why do people become health workers? Analysis from life histories in 4 post-conflict and post-crisis countries. The International Journal of Health Planning & Management, 33 (2), pp. 449-459.
While there is a growing body of literature on how to attract and retain health workers once they are trained, there is much less published on what motivates people to train as health professions in the first place in low- and middle-income countries and what difference this makes to later retention. In this article, we examine patterns in expressed motivation to join the profession across different cadres, based on 103 life history interviews conducted in northern Uganda, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, and Zimbabwe. A rich mix of reported motivations for joining the profession was revealed, including strong influence of personal calling,- exhortations of family and friends, early experiences, and chance factors. Desire for social status and high respect for health professionals were also significant. Economic factors are also important- not just perceptions of future salaries and job security but also more immediate ones, such as low cost or free training. These allowed low-income participants to access the health professions, to which they had shown considerably loyalty. The lessons learned from these cohorts, which had remained in service through periods of conflict and crisis, can influence recruitment and training policies in similar contexts to ensure a resilient health workforce.