Developing palliative care in Serbia, Malawi and Uganda – Dr Julia Downing speaks to ecancer

Categories: Care.

Dr Downing, director of education and research at the International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN), also mentioned her work in Malawi and Uganda, as well as highlighting the work done by the ICPCN to provide e-learning courses in the field of children’s palliative care.

Speaking enthusiastically about the EU-funded project to help the Serbian government develop better palliative care services, Dr Downing outlined two key areas in which the project had made a difference.

Implementing a strong education programme

The first area was to implement a strong education programme: over the three years of the project, more than 1,500 people received training in different aspects of palliative care, with others also being educated specifically in children’s palliative care. At undergraduate level, palliative care modules were introduced in courses for doctors, nurses and social workers, with universities collaborating to facilitate these additions.

Expanding the provision of palliative care services in Serbia

The second area was to expand the provision of palliative care services in Serbia. Over 15 programmes opened across the country, both in hospitals and at the primary healthcare level (in local communities). 

This involved developing a wider model of care for the delivery of palliative care services in Serbia, including audits, indicators, standards of care and guidelines for best practice. Attention to detail was important too: many nurses in Serbia could not speak English so ensuring that they had handbooks with guidance written in Serbian was a crucial part of the project.

Working with volunteers and religious leaders in Malawi and Uganda

Moving on to talk about the work of the ICPCN’s work in Malawi and Uganda, Dr Downing spoke about the need to learn from what has been successful in existing projects and picking up on best practices to take forward.

Again highlighting the important of education, she highlighted the work done with both volunteers and religious leaders to give them a better understanding of palliative care. She also spoke about the success of the BSc course in palliative at Uganda’s Makerere University and their hope that they would soon be able to offer a masters programme.

Developing e-learning courses

In the final part of the interview, Dr Downing explained that the ICPCN has recently developed eight e-learning courses designed to improve understanding about the need for and provision of children’s palliative care services.

A lot of work has also gone into making these services accessible, not only in terms of language but also recognising that nurses’ education standards differ from country to country; therefore, the courses also aimed to cater for all regardless of their entry level. The courses are free and available on the ICPCN website.

Watch the full interview with Dr Downing on the ecancer website.