The St Christopher’s Bursary Programme was created to allow individuals from resource-limited countries, who might have financial challenges, to attend the Multi-Professional week at St Christopher’s Hospice. Following the week of learning, Bursary recipients attend a one-week Clinical Placement. The Awards are made possible by the Wives’ Fellowship, and many members of this organisation attended the presentations.
Bursaries are awarded to clinicians who will not only take the skills and information they have learnt back home, but who strive to be palliative care leaders in their home countries. In setting these criteria, St Christopher’s hopes to really maximise both the quantity and quality of palliative and end-of-life care in places where the provision of such care may be challenging at best.
The Multi-Professional Week provides an opportunity for health and social care professionals from a variety of settings and countries to work together to explore the key principles of palliative care and multi-professional working. With participants and tutors representing various professions in the palliative care team, the week offers an opportunity for collaborative and practical learning.
The 2014 recipients represented different elements of the Multi-professional Team. Oluwaseun Agboola, a nurse from Nigeria; doctors Nezamuddin Ahmad from Bangladesh and Christian Ntizimira from Rwanda; as well as Salome Vadachkoria, a social worker from Georgia, all gave extremely informative presentations about the state of palliative care in their respective countries and their plans for implementing what they had learned at St Christopher’s.
Mrs Agboola, an oncology nurse with a degree in education, spoke about developing palliative care in her hospital in Nigeria. She explained the challenges facing palliative care in her country, particularly the fact that palliative care is not yet included in the healthcare structure of the country or in the undergraduate education of healthcare professionals. Also she noted that control of pain is very difficult due to strict restrictions on opioid medications in Nigeria.
She said: “I feel so privileged to be at St Christopher’s. It’s an opportunity that not many doctors or nurses from my country will have.” Mrs Agboola
noted the importance of international partnerships in supporting the development of palliative care in Nigeria, a sentiment that was echoed by the other presenters.
Dr Ahmad outlined the context of providing palliative care in Bangladesh, before introducing what has been done so far and what he and his colleagues plan to do in the future.
He told the audience, particularly addressing members of the Wives’ Fellowship: “I must extend thanks and gratitude to you all, because I know that directly or indirectly you have all been supporting our visit here.”
About his time at St Christopher’s, he said: “I will be taking back the amazing experience, but also taking back questions: How do you provide palliative care to 160 million people? Can we ever dream of creating a St Christopher’s for all these people? I don’t think so… Is it all wrong? I don’t believe so.”
He echoed sentiments first expressed by Cicely Saunders, saying that it is important for visitors to St Christopher’s not to try and replicate the work done in the UK, but rather to take away ideas that they can adapt. To find out what works for their country, their service.
He said: “This visit has enabled me to see the peak standard of institution-based palliative care… So that we don’t spend 40 more years, but rather learn from your 40 years of experience.”
Dr Ntizimira spoke about the integration of palliative care into the Rwandan public health system. He told the audience about the work being done at Kibagabaga Hospital, where he is based, including the development of children’s palliative care, and the use of community health workers to monitor patients in the community.
He also spoke about the challenges and rewards associated with providing palliative care in a post-genocide society. He said: “During the genocide, we didn’t only lose 1 million people, we also lost a part of our humanity… Using palliative care we hope to bring back a small part of the humanity that we lost.”
Liz Bryan, St Christopher’s Hospice Director of Education, responded to this, saying: “I find it very inspirational that the palliative care model or philosophy could actually bring healing to a community that is broken.”
Salome Vadachkoria spoke about social work for palliative care in Georgia. She told the audience about an initiative to start support group sessions and family member support groups. She said: “The system was very resistant to start these services. People were quite pessimistic, saying that people in Georgia are not used to sitting and talking about their emotional challenges. However, the feedback was excellent, with participants thanking the facilitators afterwards, saying how helpful the sessions had been.”
Ms Vadachkoria said that her time at St Christopher’s had helped her to develop “more insight and knowledge into what is the holistic approach of care and how we can improve the quality of life of our patients and families.”
She said: “You start critically thinking what you can do, how you can take this knowledge back to your countries to make a change.”
To find out more about the St Christopher’s Multi-Professional week and Bursary Programme, visit the website of St Christopher’s Education Centre.