Just a palliative care colonialist? – IAHPC travelling fellowship to CanSupport, New Delhi

Categories: Education.

Apart from catching up with his furry familiars, he was in New Delhi to hold two intensive training modules for CanSupport, one of the leading palliative care services in India.

Despite his original doubts that he was “just indulging (him)self as a palliative care colonialist, joining the trail of other westerners in offering a bit of do-gooding,” David goes on to describe the very important impact that he had as the sole trainer for a group of senior practitioners and leaders within the CanSupport team.  

A land of extremes

He describes India as “a land of extremes”, with its rapid economic growth, which seems to be leaving millions of poor people, not only behind, but actually worse off.

David notes that challenges for palliative care in India include: “Poverty, a gradually ageing population, limited prevention, a culture of exploiting the potential for profit by offering futile medical treatments, still limited access to morphine (although huge strides have been made), families who police information about diagnosis and prognosis for the patient, massive taboos and stigma around cancer and other conditions, the overwhelming concentration of palliative care teams in Kerala in the South and the colossal need for education in basic good manners and end of life care for doctors and other healthcare workers.”

Still, writes David, the resources of families, local communities and spiritual support are among the social capital and strengths that contribute to progress in palliative care in the country.

Part of his trip involved accompanying the CanSupport team on home visits, which David describes as: “a brilliant learning experience.”

Providing education in an already established service

David writes about the challenges of providing education in an already established service, including: finding some complementarity with what is already well provided; upskilling senior practitioners and leaders; and leaving educational experiences and skills that will be implemented and mentored.

He said: “In conjunction with the CEO and senior clinical and education leads, we planned to boost CanSupport’s training programme for counsellors with a three week intensive Training the Trainers programme in two modules.”

The training would allow participants to build practice skills and confidence to cascade the training to others.

The modules covered were:

  • Module One: Advanced psycho-social-spiritual palliative care for counsellors, and Teaching; and
  • Module Two: Presentation skills for senior counsellors/leaders.

David reports that the modules were extremely well received and highly evaluated and the learning outcomes were achieved.

A participant, having completed module one, said: ““The teaching sessions really helped in our day to day work, especially spirituality he taught will be very fruitful to cope with situations on our field visits.”

“The teaching methods were very interactive, educational and encouraging,” said a participant from Module two.

The way forward

The training produced a number of results, including the following:

  • CanSupport counsellors were trained advanced psycho-social-spiritual working, and in teaching and presentation skills.
  • this resulted in a cohort of teachers positioned to join medical and nursing colleagues to develop palliative care services in other parts of India.
  • experienced volunteers were trained on maximizing their use of stories and narratives in palliative care; and
  • the training helped to foster a culture of education and training within CanSupport.

David noted his grateful thanks to the IAHPC for the Travelling Fellowship without which this work would not have been possible.

David Oliviere is a counsellor, social worker and educationalist. He is Visiting Professor at Middlesex University, UK, and former Director of Education and Training at St Christopher’s Hospice, London.

Read the full report, including the learning outcomes and curriculum of the training in the IAHPC newsletter.

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