We have been profiling many of the nurses featured in the newly published “Palliative Care – Celebrating Nurses’ Contributions” report. Here you meet Alex, who has worked in a range of different settings including community health, adult intensive care and facilitated grief and loss support for children and their caregivers. For the past 10 years, Alex has been working in the field of children’s palliative care and these years continue to be one of the highlights of her 30-year nursing career.
In 2010, Alex completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Palliative Medicine (Paediatric Elective) at the University of Cape Town (UCT). In the same year, she joined a hospital team that provided paediatric palliative care services to three Cape Town based hospitals, and as the team’s community liaison nurse, she focused on helping children and families transition from hospital back home. Later as the unit manager of a small inpatient palliative care unit located within a step-down facility, her energy was directed at integrating a new service into an existing public health structure. Palliative care is not yet a recognised specialty in South Africa thus both these Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) driven initiatives came with a fair share of operational challenges and she learnt a tremendous amount from these experiences.
She has also learnt that education needs to be a key area of focus if we are to optimise our response to health-related suffering and improve the quality of life for over 20 million children and their families globally. It is essential that all health care workers be equipped with the necessary skills and knowledge so that they may offer generalist or specialist palliative care. While education needs to be geared towards health care workers, if we are to dispel the myths about palliative care, it is equally important to provide the general public with accurate information.
In April 2O17, Alex joined the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) as an education consultant and later that year as Education Officer. The primary focus of her work is education which includes both face-to-face and online training. Face-to-face training is often costly, always funding dependent and she has had few opportunities to engage with participants at this level. Most of her time
is devoted to working online.
The ICPCN e-learning platform is constantly expanding with over 4,800 participants representing more than 130 countries using the site. A variety of children’s palliative care topics are available in several languages including English, Portuguese, French, Spanish, Serbian, Mandarin, Czech, Dutch, Malay, Russian, Farsi and Vietnamese.
Alex acknowledges that at first, it was challenging to embrace the technical online and multilingual aspects of her work. However, with training and support, these aspects have proven to be a stimulating part of the work. Alex, who recently completed an MPhil in Palliative Medicine at UCT, particularly enjoys that her job allows her to collaborate with a range of interesting and inspirational individuals committed to improving access to palliative care education across the globe.