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Tropical Medicine for Bachelors in Nursing and Midwifery


Coordinateur du cours: Pol De Vos
Course director: Patrick Kolsteren
Secretariat: Titania Vandevelde
Tel: +(32) (0)3 247 66 61

The postgraduate training in tropical medicine is a three and a half months course that prepares nurses and midwives for a challenging professional experience in a low-resource setting. For those wishing to pursue a career in international health this course is a first step on a life-long learning path.

Initial professional assignments of (expatriate) nurses and midwives working in international health take mainly place at first line health services. This can be both in stable and in emergency situations. Their tasks include the management of these services as well as the training and supervision of local health care workers. The course therefore focuses on two key domains: tropical medicine and organization of health services.

To fully grasp the professional reality of health care workers in tropical and low-resource settings, participants get a thorough introduction into the major tropical and infectious diseases and clinical decision making. The biomedical (germs, parasites, worms, etc.) and laboratory aspects are complementary triggers that help making clinical medicine and its diagnostic challenges more comprehensible. A strong focus is on child health and nutrition as children make up the bulk of patients in the South.

To deal with management issues, participants need to master the basic concepts of public health as well as aspects of resource management. The latter includes management of human resources, drugs, diagnostics and vaccines. Collection, interpretation and reporting of health information data are other key tasks for which participants are prepared. The course will also help in translating hygiene & infection control strategies to the context of a low-resource setting.

Learning objectives

At the end of the course the participants will be able to:

  1. Discuss the biomedical and clinical aspects of the major tropical, infectious and non-communicable diseases, with a specific focus on pregnant women and children, in order to manage their treatment and prevention.
  2. Apply the basic principles of clinical decision making in a resource-poor setting.
  3. Organise primary health care services taking into account local policies and regulations and resource availability as well as the perspective of communities and patients.
  4. Organise health care in an emergency situation including the management of nutrition rehabilitation centers and immunization campaigns

Teaching methods

The postgraduate course uses established methods for adult learning with a strong focus on learning by doing. The curriculum is based on real-life tasks and scientific evidence. Interactive classes alternate with case studies and task-based learning. Both individual assignments and group work is used.

ITM teaching staff with extensive field experience are the major contributors to the course. External lecturers complete the expertise.

Evaluation and certificate

Students are assessed throughout and at the end of a course through a set of exams: knowledge questions on clinical medicine and clinical case discussions, essay questions on case studies and laboratory skills assessment.

Duration of the course

The postgraduate course in tropical medicine is a three and a half months course that starts the third week of March and ends at the end of June. It is a full-time training with a study load of 600 hours, which is equivalent to 20 ECTS credits.

Admission requirements

A higher secondary certificate, a bachelor degree in nursing or midwifery (minimum 180 ECTS credits) and two years of professional experience are required to be eligible for this course.

The course is taught simultaneously in English and French. A good knowledge of the course language is essential. Participants for whom the course language is not their first language must provide a certificate of proficiency from a recognized language institute. Alternatively they must provide proof of courses followed in the same language.

Nurses and midwives from developing countries are only eligible if they are working for an international NGO or for a higher education (nursing) institution.

For organisational purposes, a maximum of 40 students is admitted for each language. Places are allocated on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Tuition fee and scholarships

The tuition fee covers all study material. There are no institutional scholarships for this course.

Flemish participants who wish to make use of ‘opleidingscheques’ to pay part of their tuition fee will be reimbursed later upon submission of the ‘opleidingscheques’.

In case of non-participation due to events outside the applicant’s control, the tuition fee less 15% for administrative costs can be refunded.

Course programme

The course consists of three learning tracks.

1. Medical learning track

  1. Biomedical and clinical aspects of tropical and infectious diseases
  2. Clinical decision making in resource-poor settings
  3. Childhood illnesses and malnutrition

2. Management learning track

  1. Health service organization focusing on the first line within a district perspective, in stable and emergency situations
  2. Management of resources at first line (human, drugs, diagnostics, vaccines,…)
  3. Supervision and training

3. Skill training 

  1. Laboratory with attention for rapid tests, sample collection, quality control
  2. Clinical examination
  3. Infection control  and wound care in low resource settings
  4. Data collection, analysis, interpretation and reporting