Can you tell me a bit about the European Certificate in Essential Palliative Care?
I coordinate the distance learning program: ‘European Certificate in Essential Palliative Care for Nurses, Doctors and Pharmacists.’ This intensive eight-week, distance learning programme is based on the well established UK Princess Alice Certificate in Essential Palliative Care.
There are two intakes: Spring and Autumn with 160 places facilitated here in Limerick and in Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services Dublin. In Ireland to date, 550 candidates have completed the course since its initiation at Milford in September 2008.The course is divided into eight sections, each covering different principles and practice for delivering end -of-life care in any setting. I find participants who attend the course welcome the chance to share experiences, an affirmation of their practice and to discuss a particular situation that was difficult for them and to recognise in some instances these challenges can be a common experience held by each practitioner and not a discipline specific encounter. I believe true learning evolves from shared experiences – a cyclical cycle of learning between facilitator and participant – participant to facilitator and participant to participant.
It was recognised a short accessible program of study was needed between an introductory and advanced level. Mainly for practitioners in general practice who wanted to know the essentials required to care for people at end of life, who were not in a position to commit to a long term program of study. It is truly collaborative in structure, facilitated by palliative medicine consultants, clinical nurse specialists and educationalists in palliative care. It is a blended learning type course where candidates have approximately 5 hours classroom contact, and the rest of the time they are facilitated by clinical specialists in palliative care and interact with program coordinators via our associated moodle website www.e-life.ie.
The course work consists of a portfolio, where students are asked to reflect on a patient they encountered who required end of life care- someone who challenged them in their role as a health care professional. At the end of the 8 weeks they complete a knowledge based written exam and key competency assessment in opioids with a subsequent oral interview on specific patient scenarios examined by specialists in palliative care. The interest in the course is growing year on year with a maximum capacity on each intake which suggests the program is meeting the frontline demand from practitioners who are encountering a range of patients with palliative needs.
In your opinion, why is it important to focus on education in palliative care?
It is widely publicised in Ireland, with a population of 4.5 million, the demand for palliative care services are expected to increase due to the changing demographic profile, with the older person population set to rise. These changes will impact on care delivery as the majority of older people with progressive and incurable conditions are likely to die in care settings. Therefore, appropriate levels of palliative care education need to be evaluated and made accessible for generalist staff in order to strengthen their capacity to care for those individuals and to reduce the projected likelihood of the specialist palliative care providers being overburdened.
I welcome the Irish Health Service Executive Palliative Care Competence Framework and the EAPC introduction of general core competencies in palliative care for all health and social care practitioners as it will offer an outline for the design of palliative care education programmes, with the essentials of what should constitute as high quality palliative care education content. We all need to be reading off the same page so to speak.
I also feel it is important to focus on education in palliative care as research would indicate public interest in death and dying is increasing and likely to result in a more public demand that everyone should be able to have a ‘good death’. With the availability now of various internet chat forums and ‘Dr Google’ availability, situations can arise where the public receive mixed messages about death, dying and palliative care and what it entails. A number of misconceptions and poor understanding can result. It is imperative the public receive the correct evidenced based information by credible people with the appropriate background in palliative care.