Revolutionising Paediatric Care: Bangladesh’s Leap into Palliative Care Education

Categories: Education.

“Palliative care shines as a beacon of compassion in treatment. For patients, healthcare providers are angels of comfort. Their kindness and warmth can ease suffering, bringing peace to even the youngest patients. This gentle approach should be at the heart of all care.” – Associate Professor Dr. Rubina Afroz, Dhaka Medical College Hospital

In a groundbreaking move to transform paediatric healthcare in Bangladesh, a pioneering online educational initiative has been completed, a first step towards addressing the critical need for palliative care education in Bangladesh. This collaborative effort, bringing together The SickKids Centre for Global Child Health (Canada), Dhaka Medical College Hospital (Bangladesh), and Two Worlds Cancer Collaboration (Canada), aims to bridge the significant knowledge gap in palliative care among healthcare professionals in the country.

The team developed a 6-week online training course, which ran from May 8 to June 12, 2024, connecting doctors, nurses, and allied health professionals specialising in paediatrics from various medical colleges and hospitals across Bangladesh with esteemed national and international mentors in the palliative care field. The response was overwhelming, with 78 participants (46 doctors and 32 nurses) from Dhaka Medical College Hospital, Khulna Medical College, Sylhet Medical College, and Rangpur Medical College and Hospital participating in the course.

The programme included lectures from experts and interactive case studies led by participants, aiming to empower healthcare professionals to skillfully address the multifaceted needs of children facing life-threatening illnesses and their families, covering all aspects of suffering—physical, emotional, social, and spiritual.

Dr. Noor Jahan Begum from Evercare Hospital praised the initiative: “It’s an amazing platform to share knowledge and experience with culturally different people who have the same feelings and thoughts. Though we have language barriers, I found we all overcame that. This starting will make a huge difference in our approach towards children and families with incurable life-limiting illnesses.”

One notable aspect of the programme was its inclusive approach, particularly in involving nurses who traditionally have had fewer opportunities for specialised training. Nurse Tushta Sarker from Dhaka Medical College Hospital commented, “I liked the course. I learned a great deal of new things. We need to integrate nurses more.”

The curriculum was comprehensive, covering crucial topics such as an introduction to children’s palliative care, identifying conditions necessitating palliative care, managing pain in children and infants with a focus on local opioid availability, addressing symptoms beyond pain, supportive communication with parents and delivering difficult news, end-of-life care considerations, and handling grief and bereavement in both adults and children.

With a diverse faculty from Bangladesh, India, Kuwait, and Canada, the course facilitated valuable connections among healthcare professionals and provided continuous mentorship. Upon successful completion, participants received an official certificate, symbolising a major achievement in advancing healthcare for seriously ill children in Bangladesh.

This initiative marks a pivotal step toward building a robust healthcare system that meets the needs of every child nationwide in Bangladesh. By equipping healthcare professionals with the knowledge and skills to provide comprehensive palliative care, the programme is laying the groundwork for a more compassionate and effective approach to paediatric care in Bangladesh. As the effects of this education spread throughout the healthcare system, it promises to enhance the quality of life for the country’s most vulnerable young patients and their families, ensuring that compassion and dignity remain at the heart of medical care.

The organisers gratefully acknowledge funding from the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health that made this course possible.

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