BELHospice in Serbia, is the first specialised charity in Serbia that provides palliative care to individuals at home and in their day care centre. They provide a wide range of services which have until now been focused on caring for adults, including home care, advice, psychological social, and spiritual support, day care, and bereavement support. They are also involved in education and training on palliative care and have trained a wide range of health professionals, volunteers and family members. Having recognised the need to expand their services to care for children needing palliative care, they are in the process of setting up a children’s palliative care service, that will provide home care for children and their families. The service is being funded through a grant from St James’s Place Foundation.
During the week commencing 11th April, Professor Julia Downing and Dr. Sat Jassal went to Belgrade to work with the team and also to meet the staff at the Institute for Mother and Child Health of Serbia “Dr. Vukan Čupić” (Institut za zdravstvenu zaštitu majke i deteta Srbije “dr Vukan Čupić). The new children’s team at BELHospice consists of two paediatricians, two children’s nurses, two physiotherapists, a social worker, and a psychologist. Two days of introductory training were held at the hospice covering a range of topics including the philosophy and principles of palliative care, different models of care, and the differences between palliative care for children and adults. Across the two days, Dr. Sat went through a range of symptoms, discussing options with the team, along with different medications that can be used, depending on availability. He stressed the multi-disciplinary approach and it was important having a multi-disciplinary team at the training.
Communication skills played an important role in the training, with all participants being involved in a range of case studies and role plays. These were designed according to the different professionals, illustrating challenging situations, and giving participants the chance to try different communication skills in a safe environment. The role plays opened up the opportunity for discussion over a range of issues including breaking bad news, talking to children and young people about their diagnosis, collusion, speaking with parents about prognosis, and whose role it is to communicate about such issues.
The hospice is collaborating with the Institute of Mother and Child Health and so we spent an afternoon with the doctors and nurses who are going to be working with the hospice team. Similar topics were discussed with the team, setting the scene for the start of the service. It was exciting to see the team’s commitment and eagerness to learn and to develop the service. We look forward to hearing how they get on.