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AMTC Cadre Name:

Clinical Officers

Established 1927

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Kenya cadre name

Provider Density

webpage 22% HRH Kenya per 10,000 populat


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Kenya provider density and CO stats
Kenya Primary/Specialty care

Primary Care / Specialty Care Distribution

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Scope of Practice

1. Obtain medical history and conduct physical examinations

2. Diagnose and manage acute and chronic illnesses and disease

3. Provide care for patients in an emergency care setting

4. Prescribe physical therapy and other rehabilitation managements

5. Provide information to include all aspects of sexual and reproductive health

6. Ensure infection prevention and control while carrying out clinical medicine procedure

7. Provide reproductive health services and family planning services

8. Provide well-child services, including screening and immunization

9. Provide clinical specialist services at all levels of health care delivery

10. Assist and perform operations and procedures within the scope of their practice

11. Counsel and provide health education to communities

12. Manage and assure quality of essential medicines and medical supplies

13. Alcohol & drug/substance abuse management

14. Health promotion

15. Advocacy on road safety/Injury prevention

16. Education addressing negative cultural and lifestyle practices

17. Capacity building

18. Hygiene promotion

19. Promotion of safe food handling

20. Advocate for proper waste management

21. Health education on malaria prevention and control

22. Promotion of occupational safety wellness programs

23. Disaster management

24. Youth friendly services

25. School health promotion

26. School water sanitation and hygiene.

27. Disease surveillance

28. Community diagnosis

SOURCE: Kenya’s Position Paper on Clinical Officers Role in Universal Health Coverage

AUTHORS: David Njeru, Ibrahim Wako, Albert Taiti

January 25, 2021

Keya Scope of Practice

Age Distribution

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Gender Distribution

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Kenya age and gender

Country Profile

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Kenya country profile

Rural Practice Data

Data on this particular realm does not currently exist, or is in the process of being gathered and verified.
Read more about our data gathering practices here.

Kenya rural practice


Institution completion rate

for Clinical Officer diplomas 

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Brief history of Clinical Officer training in Kenya

During colonial times:
The training of clinical officers in Kenya started in 1927 at then King George Hospital, now Kenyatta Hospital. It was a hands-on basic that took a duration of 2 years. They graduated as Certified Clinical Officer (CCO).This continued until around 1952 during the state of emergency

Emergency need to train Clinical Officers:
Between 1952 and 1964, many British doctors left the country for fear of reprisal by the Kenyan natives. These was an acute shortage of health care workers/ Because of this there was accelerated training of Clinical Officers to fill in the gap. These Clinical Officers qualified as Clinical Assistants (CA). The training started formally and a syllabus was drawn. In 1962 there was already a movement by the few Clinical Officers to agitate for recognition and unsupervised practice by Clinical Officers. The training was temporarily stopped by the government through the pressure of the few doctors that were there. It was said that nobody else should use a stethoscope other than a doctor. This caused a crisis in the health sector and the program was restarted in 1967. The training continued until 1969 when the role of Clinical Officers in service provision was fully recognized. A curriculum was drawn and the duration was extended to three years to enable them broaden the scope and masters the skills in order to manage health institutions. They qualified as Registered Clinical Officers in 1971(RCO)

Training of Clinical Officer Specialists ( higher national diploma)-- 17 programs to date:
After appreciating the good work done by Clinical Officers, the Ministry of Health found it fit to train Clinical Officers at a higher national diploma (Clinical Officer Specialists). There was a big problem of tuberculosis and leprosy. So the first HND was Clinical Officer TB and Leprosy (COTULEP), many others were started later including: dermato-veneriology, chest medicine, paediatrics, family medicine, ENT, anaesthesia, reproductive health, mental health, oncology, orthopaedics, nephrology, emergency and critical care, cardiopulmonary perfusion, audiology, ophthalmology, epidemiology, and medical education. Due to the need to equip Clinical Officers with more competencies to handle primary health care competently, a four year program was started in 2004. Students graduate with a degree in clinical medicine.


Journey to accreditation and self-regulation (1981-1989)
The Kenya Clinical Officers Association was formed in 1962 and registered in 1981. The objective was to bring all Clinical Officers together, forge for recognition through an act of Parliament, fight for the welfare of Clinical Officers, and have a scheme of service. The Clinical Officers were limited in the types and range of drugs to prescribe. This was very frustrating as they were to wait for the few doctors available to countersign the prescriptions before giving to the patient. The association tried in all ways but the road was blocked. The Clinical Officers raised funds to get a lawyer to represent in court to have an act of Parliament. 
One day as the then president was on his way in a county side, he developed severe malaria. The only health facility nearby was a health centre run by a certified Clinical Officer. He was managed so well and after sometime he summoned the “doctor” who had treated him to statehouse. It turned out that he was a Clinical Officer and not a doctor. He was immediately appointed the Chief Clinical Officer in Kenya. The court ruled in favor of Clinical Officers bringing to fore Cap 260 laws of Kenya. The Clinical Officer’s Council was formed in 1988 and started operating in 1989. The council was charged with training registration and licensing of Clinical Officers.  The act has since been repealed to Clinical Officers Act no 20 of 2017. The new act gives more power to Clinical Officers. There is no limitation in drug prescription, ordering and interpreting lab results, and it allows Clinical Officers to perform invasive procedures (surgeries).
Currently there are 66 training institutions for Clinical Officers including Government, faith-based, private, and 12 universities. So far 2656 Clinical Officers with higher national diploma have been trained, and 715 degree Clinical Officers have also been trained. There are 23,000 Clinical Officers registered by the COC today.

Compiled by David Njeru, 2021

Kenya Training andhistory

Leadership Bodies
Regulation & Accreditation

The Clinical Officers in Kenya have 3 bodies charged with leadership . Each has different functions.

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  • Clinical officer’s council (COC)
    Accreditation and regulatory body incorporated under the laws of Kenya.  Mandate includes training, registration, licensing, & advising the government on policy matters.


  • Kenya Union of Clinical Officers
    Registered trade union whose membership is open to all Clinical officers who are registered or licensed to practice Medicine in Kenya. Their missions is to unite, build and strengthen Clinical Officers, promote our socio-economic improvement and professional excellence, & strengthen and sustain our collective bargaining power.

  • Kenya Clinical Officers Association
    Promotes advocacy, policy guidance, professional development, and the welfare & empowerment of Clinical Officers

Kenya leadership bodiies

Health Workforce Indicators Collected In-Country

updated Kenya education and training pra
Kenya heath workforce indicators

Country Healthcare System Structure 

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Kenya healthcare system structure

Resources & Links

The Clinical Officers (Training, Registration and Licensing) Act

The Clinical Officers Council of Kenya is incorporated under this act, whose purpose is to supervise and control the training and professional practice of medicine, dentistry, orthopaedics and health work by clinical officers and to register and license clinics and medical centres. A person who is registered by the Clinical Officers Council is entitled to render medical services in any approved institution and may, with respect to patients, examine, diagnose, order laboratory and imaging investigations, prescribe treatment and perform procedures as per their scope of training.

Process of licensing to practice medicine in Kenya 

Clinical Officers of Kenya Facebook

Kenya Clinical Officers Association Twitter

Kenya Union of Clinical Officers Facebook

Kenya Clinical Officers Council Facebook

The role of Clinical Officers in the Kenyan health system: A question of perspective, 2013
This research article explorea perceptions of the roles of Kenyan Clinical Officers and the proposition that their role be redefined, moving from that of 'substitute clinician' to professional 'primary care clinician', with this being supported by the health system.

Kenya resouces and links

Please note that data provided on this page was last reviewed & updated in April 2021

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