Competency in Supportive Supervision: A Study of Public Sector Medicines Management Supervisors in Uganda

Competency in Supportive Supervision: A Study of Public Sector Medicines Management Supervisors in Uganda

By: Rachel Henry, Lynda Nantongo, Anita Katharina Wagner, Martha Embrey, Birna Trap
Publication: Journal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice2017; Vol. 10, No. 33. DOI: 10.1186/s40545-017-0121-y.



Supportive supervision has been found to be more effective than corrective fault-oriented inspections. Uganda’s Ministry of Health in 2012 implemented a comprehensive strategy (SPARS) to build medicines management capacity in public sector health facilities. The approach includes supportive supervision. This structured observational study assesses supportive supervision competency among medicines management supervisors (MMS).


The study used structured observations of two groups of five purposely selected MMS—one group supervising facilities with greater medicines management improvement during one year of SPARS and one group with less improvement, based on quantitative metrics. We observed and scored behaviors and skills of supervisors in 11 categories deemed critical for effective and supportive supervision.


Supportive supervision was not evenly or adequately implemented, with the median supportive supervision competency score for all observed supervisors being 38%. Supervisors’ main strengths were problem identification, data interpretation, education, and providing constructive feedback (45%–47%). Their weakest areas were assuring continuity and setting targets (17%), and most MMS were fair to strong in effective communication, use of tools, and problem solving. MMS of facilities with little improvement in medicines management over time were weak in setting targets and promoting participation. There was a 33 percentage point difference in the median supportive supervision competency scores between MMS of facilities with more versus less improvement (57%–24%) and a 77 percentage point difference in competency between the highest and lowest scoring MMS (77%–0%). We did not find a relationship between MMS experience (number of visits implemented) and their supportive supervision competency or facility improvement in medicines management. However, there is a likely relationship between supportive supervision competency and facility improvement.


Competency of MMS in supportive supervision among the sampled MMS was generally weak, but with much individual variation. Our results suggest that MMS’ supportive supervision competency is positively related to the SPARS effectiveness scores of the facilities they supervise. We recommend strategies to strengthen supportive supervision behaviors and skills.