First intake of students to new Masters/Postgraduate Diploma in Health Sciences (Children’s Palliative/ Complex Care Nursing) in Ireland

Categories: Education.

This dynamic programme is designed for registered nurses working with children and adolescents with complex or life limiting conditions. This first of a kind Irish programme aims to equip nurses with the necessary in-depth evidence based knowledge, skills and competencies to provide safe, quality care to highly dependent children and young people as they live with complex and life limiting illness.

About the programme
The programme has been established in response to the rapidly growing numbers of Irish children living with life limiting and palliative care needs currently estimated at 4,000 children (Ling et al 2015) and the subsequent need for nursing staff to have the knowledge and skills to care for this population. Although death in childhood is relatively uncommon, the specific care needs of the child and family require a reflective, family centred and evidence-based approach to practice (Goldman, Hain and Liben, 2012). The recent recommendations within the Irish Policy for Children with Life Limiting conditions (DoH&C 2010) encourages further professional development for nurses caring for these children and adolescents and families. This new programme aims to assist nurses to explore the approaches to palliative and complex care practice. The programme and suite of modules intends to assist in the transformation of the nursing workforce and up skilling of practitioners who wish to expand and enhance their nursing practice around palliative and complex care for children, young people and their families.

Palliative and complex care for children differs from care for adults in that many children requiring palliative/complex care have life-limiting conditions, as opposed to advanced terminal conditions. Children may survive many years with these conditions. The needs of these children differ from the needs of adults and a significant proportion have long term needs, and many live with severe disability. The needs of their families may also be more complex. Respite care is an important element in the care of children with life-limiting conditions. However when infants and children  reach the end of life, care needs to be provided in a compassionate, holistic  and competent manner. We only get one chance to get it right for children and families.

Considerable development of services
The development of Irish palliative care services over the last twenty five years has been considerable. The Government’s commitment to palliative care was first reflected in the National Health Strategy in 1994, which recognised the important role of palliative care services in improving quality of life. It gave a commitment to the continued development of these services in a structured manner, in order to achieve the highest possible quality of life for patients and their families. The Minister for Health and Children subsequently established the National Advisory Committee on Palliative Care who had the responsibility for examining palliative care services in Ireland, results of which are found in the 2001 Report of the National Advisory Committee on Palliative Care. With the publication of a national policy Palliative Care for Children with Life-limiting Conditions (2010), Palliative Care Competence Framework (2014), international and national reports and guidelines on palliative care provision such as the World Health Organisation (2008) ‘The Global Burden of Disease’, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines (2013), Report of the Irish Advisory Committee on Palliative Care (2001) and the Irish Hospice Foundation (2008) ‘Palliative Care for all’ documents supports the need to provide a programme which is evidence based and encompassing the growing demands of children and adolescents who require palliative and complex care.

Palliative Care for All
The Irish Hospice Foundation (2008) published a paper “Palliative Care for All” examining the need to expand palliative care to a wider population group, with particular emphasis on children. Furthermore, ethnic and cultural diversity is now a demographic reality within modern Irish society and cannot be ignored by paediatric or palliative care services. All cultures and religions have particular beliefs relating to dying, death and bereavement including the Irish traveller community who also have different traditions. In determining the need for paediatric palliative/complex care services, other population groups with particular needs should also be considered. These include children with intellectual, physical and sensory disabilities.

Within Ireland, prevalence of life-limiting conditions is now estimated at 3,840 children (Ling et al 2015). Palliative and complex care is provided in a myriad of settings aligned to family and child preference and may include home, hospital, school, hospice and respite centres (IHF/HSE 2013). The paediatric palliative care nurse or nurse for children with complex care requirements plays a key role as a member of the multidisciplinary team. Paediatric palliative/complex care nurses require a comprehensive understanding of the experience and philosophy of palliative, complex care from neonates to adolescents and their families.

In order to meet the needs of a variety of children requiring palliative and complex care, this new programme aims to equip nurses with the broad skills necessary to meet the needs of children across a wide variety of settings. The new programme has both theoretical and clinical components and the unique curriculum has been developed with a team comprising of Ms Louise Neary, RCN, RNID, RNT, MSC , Ms Deidre Fitzgerald RCN, MSc and Ms Laura Dempsey MSc, RNT, RGN and includes valuable contributions from medical colleagues in the field. A blended learning approach is adopted in the delivery of this programme which is a flexible approach to learning, making it possible to combine working full-time with studying. This course has been approved by The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland. As part of the programme, every student will have the assistance of the Programme Director and mentors nationally to create a unique professional development portfolio for students to achieve defined learning priorities for the speciality.


Open for applications in MARCH 2017.

Please contact Programme Director

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