This conference marks yet another first for Kerala, whose community-based palliative care approach caught the attention of the world.
The conference, organised through the Institute of Palliative Medicine, Kozhikode, jointly with the Association of Palliative Care Nurses, Kerala, was held on 22 and 23 April 2016. The event took place in Kozhikode with the participation of more than 550 delegates.
Proven commitment and skill
Over the past two decades, nurses working in palliative care have proven their commitment and skill through the vital role they played in the development of the much acclaimed community palliative care services in Kerala.
They are recognised as the backbone of these services. The experience they have gained over more than 20 years of service and the skill they acquired have empowered them.
Now they are organised too. Nurses realise the need for learning, updating skills, sharing knowledge and experience, and creating a platform of organised action to deliver the best quality care to those accessing palliative care services.
Nurses have been in the lead role in palliative home care services for many years. Now they are taking a lead role in their own education and professional development.
“I am sure that the future of palliative care services in Kerala is safe in their hands. They have proven it again through this well-organised conference with scientific sessions of good standard, said Dr Anil Paleri, Director of the Institute of Palliative Medicine.
“Well informed, learned and experienced nurses presented brilliant sessions. I feel proud to be a part of this.”
Dr Paleri continued: “Apart from being the first such initiative in the country, the significance of this conference lies in the fact that all the presentations were in local language. It is important that the nurses who work at community level should be encouraged and provided opportunities to share their experiences and learn from each other.
“This is done best through a language with which they all are comfortable. The big conferences do not provide such opportunities for many as the medium of deliberations will be English.
“We need to organise more educational programmes and conferences in local languages for the benefit of those magnificent people working at community level. This has a greater significance for India where there are more than 15 official languages.”
An excellent platform for professional growth
Ms Sinimol K. V., chairperson of the conference organising committee, noted that when the group had formed an organisation for nurses in palliative care in Kerala a year ago, their aim was to provide an excellent platform for professional growth.
“This conference is our first initiative in this direction,” she said. “We are committed to doing more. Without updating skills and knowledge, we are not able to deliver good quality care to the needy.”
The scientific session started with plenaries on: ‘The Role of Nurses in Palliative Care’, ‘Challenges in Home Care’, and ‘Infection Control in Palliative Care Settings’.
Senior nurses, Mrs Geetha, M., Ms Shyni, M. and Mrs Chandralekha, K. P., were the speakers in the plenary session. This was followed by an open forum discussing various aspects of palliative care services in Kerala.
Learning from the experts
On the second day, the focus was learning from the experts. With this aim, four parallel workshops were organised on: lymphedema management, colostomy care, communication, and culture and spirituality. Senior nurses led these workshops.
Simultaneously, symposiums on end of life care and basic patient care were organised and here most of the topics were presented by youngsters. Their presentations proved the in-depth knowledge they have gained through hands-on experience.
The morning sessions were followed by plenary sessions on two important topics: children’s palliative care and caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. Dr Anil Paleri and Dr K. S. Shaji, Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the Government Medical College in Thrissur, were the speakers.
“Both these talks were very useful for us, because we find it more complicated to provide care for children and elderly people,” said Ms Shyni. “Expert training in caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease is the need of the hour, as the majority of our patients are now older people with age-related problems.”
As in many other conferences, the debate was the most exciting session. The enthusiasm of the participants was truly unleashed during the debate competition.
The topic was: ‘Should a nurse be the leader of home care?’ Those who spoke for the topic argued that none other but the committed nurses should be the leader to provide good quality care whenever the patient needs it. Those who spoke against argued that, in a state like Kerala, where palliative care is a community movement, the home care services also should be led by volunteers.
This landmark conference ended with a plenary on psychosocial issues by Dr Shibu Kumar, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Kozhikode.
“The feedback from the participants has been really encouraging,” said Ms Sinimol, organising chairperson. “We are planning to continue organising Nurse Pallicon with good scientific sessions in the years to come.”