As an addition to our ‘Palliative Care – Celebrating Nurses Contributions’ report, we would like to share the story of Ahmed Abu-Afifeh who lives in Palestine in Bethlehem city and is a father of three beautiful daughters. He is currently working as the head nurse of the COVID-19 Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Beit-Jala governmental hospital.
Before that he worked for four years as a senior nurse in theatres, in particular oncological surgery. He also has experience working in the adult ICU department. Ahmed completed his Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Hebron University in 2010 and has 11 years of nursing experience. He is currently undertaking a Masters degree in palliative care, having completed H.D degree in palliative care at Bethlehem University in 2019. Ahmed has been a member of the Al-Sadeel society for palliative care since 2012 and has eight years of experience as a nurse educator, teaching baccalaureate students at Hebron and Al-Quds Universities. As an educator, Ahmed shows his students the power of knowledge that helps in being a strong nurse and being respected by other health care professionals.
As a palliative care nurse his passion is to meet the patients’ needs, and to try and increase their quality of life. He has experienced several challenges whilst developing palliative care services, including a lack of support from health policies and education; a lack of knowledge about palliative care amongst health care providers; a lack of financial support, cancer centers, radiotherapy and medication. Another challenge is that nurses are not able to order or modify medications for patients, which means they do not always get access to medications such as morphine. He has found myths and misconceptions about the use of opioids and due to the political situation, it means that patients cannot always get permits to travel to get health care. However, there have been various strategies introduced to try and overcome the challenges, such as referring cancer patients to Israeli hospitals for treatment such as radiotherapy, starting a palliative care higher diploma and masters in the universities, along with integrating palliative care into the medical and nursing curricula and encouraging them to specialise in palliative care. He has found that being up-to-date and scientific builds trust and strong relationships with other members of the health care team. Ahmed has learnt how to improve the quality of life for cancer patients (both children and adults) and how to care for the patient holistically, with symptom control, pain management and communication skills. Importantly he has learnt how to best use opioids and morphine without fear and how to utilise validated assessment tools, and ensure his practice is evidence based.
His attitude to end-of-life care has changed, and he values the importance of knowledge and of working as a multidisciplinary team. Ahmed feels that it is important to encourage experiences that promote the value of caring for dying people and the need for staff training in palliative care, which include nurse specialisation in palliative care. He is determined to increase his knowledge in palliative care nursing, and to educate other nurses in that field, to ensure that all those needing palliative care in Palestine can access it.
He is determined to increase his knowledge in palliative care nursing, and to educate other nurses in that field, to ensure that all those needing palliative care in Palestine can access it.