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

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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 were infrequently engaging and counseling their clients about COVID-19 testing and vaccine uptake. Moreover, in-depth interviews conducted by Breakthrough ACTION with HCWs in four states of Nigeria–Akwa-Ibom, Bauchi, Enugu, Lagos–reported that they lack sufficient information on COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines and require more information on COVID-19 and vaccination (Breakthrough ACTION, 2022). Recognizing the critical role HCWs play in vaccination decisions, there was 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.  

Learners should also explore the Nigeria country page of the COVID-19 Communication Network for additional supplemental materials that were developed to reinforce this training, which includes the participant’s training bookletawareness cards (also available in Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba), posters, and learning videos.