Protocol for the Pathways Study: a realist evaluation of staff social ties and communication in the delivery of neonatal care in Kenya
INTRODUCTION: The informal social ties that health workers form with their colleagues influence knowledge, skills and individual and group behaviours and norms in the workplace. However, improved understanding of these 'software' aspects of the workforce (eg, relationships, norms, power) have been neglected in health systems research. In Kenya, neonatal mortality has lagged despite reductions in other age groups under 5 years. A rich understanding of workforce social ties is likely to be valuable to inform behavioural change initiatives seeking to improve quality of neonatal healthcare.This study aims to better understand the relational components among health workers in Kenyan neonatal care areas, and how such understanding might inform the design and implementation of quality improvement interventions targeting health workers' behaviours. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: We will collect data in two phases. In phase 1, we will conduct non-participant observation of hospital staff during patient care and hospital meetings, a social network questionnaire with staff, in-depth interviews, key informant interviews and focus group discussions at two large public hospitals in Kenya. Data will be collected purposively and analysed using realist evaluation, interim analyses including thematic analysis of qualitative data and quantitative analysis of social network metrics. In phase 2, a stakeholder workshop will be held to discuss and refine phase one findings.Study findings will help refine an evolving programme theory with recommendations used to develop theory-informed interventions targeted at enhancing quality improvement efforts in Kenyan hospitals. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: The study has been approved by Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI/SERU/CGMR-C/241/4374) and Oxford Tropical Research Ethics Committee (OxTREC 519-22). Research findings will be shared with the sites, and disseminated in seminars, conferences and published in open-access scientific journals.