Palliative care is a noble act because it goes beyond the patient. It ensures that the entire family of the patient is prepared for whatever outcome and that the medical professional in charge would be with them even after all eventualities.
According to the Global Atlas of Palliative Care and End of Life Classification system, the Philippines is categorized as 3A in palliative care. This means that while the service is being provided, it is often patchy in scope, funding is often heavily donor-dependent, and morphine has limited availability.
Last August 2015, the Asia Physical Therapy Student Association held its 7th Congress in Hong Kong. It was a two-day event where physical therapy students from all over Asia convened to learn about, share and explore the different practices of physical therapy and other related topics.
It was also a platform for people from different cultures to interact and share their rich backgrounds with each other. I was fortunate enough to be chosen to be part of the Philippine delegation.
Why an infographic?
We were assigned to share our thoughts and research on palliative care. Although several options for presenting our findings were available, we chose to use an infographic as our medium to present to the assembly.
Our challenge was to raise awareness about the state of palliative care which is a very serious but unexplored topic to the young and energetic physical therapy student populace.
The group opted for an infographic because it can be easily understood by people and it does not take a lot of time to read. All the information that was relevant to the issue was presented through illustrations and statistical data so as to not become heavy to the readers.
We wanted our simple presentation to reach not only the people in the medical field, but also to everyone who has an interest in the topic.
The best way to do this was to disseminate the information via social media and as per our experience and the people we surveyed, people who browse social media sites prefer to read through illustrations rather than text heavy articles.
We envision the infographic to showcase the ability of bridging the different aspects of graphic arts, the seriousness of health sciences, the ability to captivate all age groups, and the different statistics to support the data regarding the state of palliative care in our country.
We also hope for it to become the provider of an overview and to serve as the foundation for basic information about palliative care in the Philippines.
Once we raise enough awareness, we plan to use our infographic as the tool to encourage physical therapy students to venture into this field, because we will need more minds with fresher and more innovative ideas to be able to develop the studies further.
Developing the infographic
Being that palliative care is not a very well-known topic, our group encountered very little data on the topic. Few written or published academic articles about palliative care in the Philippines are available online. Therefore we decided to conduct interviews with physical therapists and healthcare professionals who work in this field and those related to it for their insights and experiences.
Our interviews may not have been as extensive as we hoped but we were able to gather substantial data from our research and interviewees.
One of our interviewees, a president of an NGO for palliative care said that the position of physical therapist in their organisation has been left vacant for several years now.
This can be associated with a lack of information and awareness of palliative care even among health care professionals. This is probably due to the fact that this service has not yet been explored deeply. It also stems from a culture of sensitivity to talk about a loved one’s expectation towards death.
Our physical therapist interviewee felt that financial factors may also affect the willingness to avail of the services of a physical therapist. Also, most Filipino families prefer to care for their dying loved ones at home as a way to show their love and gratitude.
Palliative care has a long way to go in its development in the Philippines. We believe that the health sciences students of today are the best candidates to continue the effort of the pioneer groups.
We truly believe that someday our patients should have an access to this kind of health care program and that there will be passionate and empathic health care professionals to help them.
Becoming competent and knowledgeable
From personal experience, I witnessed the struggle of my grandfather’s hardships when he was on the last days of his life and to see a love one fight through the pain is unbearable.
It served as my motivation to learn more about palliative care because I know that there are things that could have been done that could have provided him with better care.
Today, I struggle through book after book learning that which I lacked so that someday, I won’t feel as helpless as I felt because of inexperience.
I hope be competent and knowledgeable about the different skill sets needed to provide the care for my future patients.
I hope to have the passion and heart to motivate and influence the youth to share the same goals I have to provide our fellow countrymen the comfort and the best life has to give.
I hope that with the infographic and the works my team and I have done, we will be able to strengthen the role of physical therapy in palliative care and be able to establish and work with a multidisciplinary team needed in providing optimal healthcare services accessible to all those who will need it.
I will strive and work hard until the day I can finally say: “Hello, I’m Jerome your physical therapist for today.”
You can access the infographics through the Facebook page of the Association of Philippine Physical Therapy Students
Jerome C. De Leon is President of the Association of Philippine Physical Therapy Students, and a student in Physical Therapy at the College of Allied Medical Professions, University of the Philippines-Manila.