Palliative care students gain rich knowledge from Malawi placement

Categories: People & Places.

Umodzi Children’s Palliative Care Clinic is a center of excellence in provision of palliative care services to children and their families challenged with life-limiting and life-threatening illnesses in Malawi. 

Research and training, advocacy and service delivery are the main pillars of the services. 

Umodzi offers clinical placements to healthcare professionals at both national and international levels in Malawi. 

The clinic has managed to integrate children’s palliative care services into the existing health services at the largest government hospital in Malawi, Queen Elizabeth Central Hospital, using very limited resources. 

It is a role model in Malawi because the team works with integrity. The core business is to improve quality of life through symptom management using a holistic approach. Different cadres of healthcare professionals globally come for clinical practice of children’s palliative care.

In the month of May, Umodzi had student medical doctors from Netherlands, Sofia and Jette, who came for clinical placement.

During that period there were also students, Anne and Rex, pursuing their Bachelors degrees in Palliative Care Medicine with Hospice Africa Uganda in affiliation with the Makerere University. All showed great interest in children’s palliative care.

Upon completion of her one month practical work at the clinic, Anne, one of the students had the following to say: “It has been a great moment to get exposed to different conditions common in children, such as cancer. 

“In my work area we are more experienced with adult palliative care services, I did not know that they are many conditions that are life-threatening in nature affecting children and their families. 

“These conditions range from cancer, HIV/AIDS to chronic illnesses such as heart, lung kidney. I have gained confidence in pain assessment and management in children. 

“I have also developed confidence in counselling children and their parents. The skills gained will be used to establish children’s palliative care at my workplace. 

“I thank the Umodzi team members for supporting me.” 

Rex from Uganda said: “I have acquired knowledge and skills in children’s palliative care which will help me improve the quality of provision of care at my workplace where we only have a few children living and many suffering in pain. 

“I did not have adequate knowledge because we only provide adult palliative care. I have learnt pain assessment in neonates using the FLACC scale which can also be used for unconscious patients. 

“I will convince my team to adopt the pain assessment for children under three months which our clinic currently does not have. 

“This clinical placement has increased my knowledge in counselling a child and family holistically. I thank the Umodzi clinic team members for their commitment and team work.”

Sofia, a medical student from the Netherlands, said: “I have learnt holistic assessment and management in children at Umodzi. I will apply all these skills to my place of work because I have seen that we need adequate time to do assessment in children rather than making assumptions based on the symptoms of the child. 

“The team is so committed and dedicated to deliver the best services.” 

Lastly, Jette said: “Umodzi is a great team and has lots of knowledge and experience in children’s palliative care. I have learnt that it’s better to care for one patient really well than many with little holistic intervention. 

“Spending a lot of time with a patient helps you to gather more detailed information. I will use these skills to develop children’s palliative care at my work area.”

This article was originally published on the International Children’s edition of ehospice.