Speaking at the event, Professor Vesna Bosnjak-Petrovic said how this occasion was unique as not only is the handbook the first Serbian handbook on palliative medicine, but it is also the first handbook to be approved by four different medical schools at the same time.
The book ‘Palijativna Medicina: prirucnik za studente medicine’ was developed through the EU-funded project: ‘The Development of Palliative Care Services in the Republic of Serbia’ which is managed by a consortium led by Oxford Policy Management.
The project is providing technical assistance to the Ministry of Health for the establishment of a comprehensive system of palliative care in Serbia. Central to this is the development of palliative care training programmes and the integration of palliative care into the undergraduate medical, nursing and social work curricula.
This handbook is an important step forward in the development of palliative care and in undergraduate medical education in Serbia. Having materials on palliative care available in Serbian is vital and this handbook, focused on the curriculum taught in the undergraduate medical schools, is an important addition to the Serbian literature.
The handbook was written by palliative care experts working on the project including Prof. Julia Downing, Dr Natasa Milicevic, Dr Erna Haraldsdottir and Dr John Ely. It was reviewed by Prof. Scott Murray. Prof. Vesna Bosnjak played an important role in introducing the handbook to the different faculties, where it went through a review and acceptance procedure.
The handbook is a companion to the undergraduate curriculum which was developed based on the guidelines from the EAPC, and covers the key aspects of palliative care required at the undergraduate level.
The number of patients with cancer and other life-limiting diseases continues to increase and, as the population of Serbia increases in age and medical advances are capable of keeping people alive longer, the number requiring palliative care will also increase. Therefore it is important that undergraduate medical students learn about palliative care, its principles, challenges and complexities.
Often palliative care is misunderstood, and many see it as little more than an exercise in clinical pharmacology, particularly in terms of pain control and the use of opioids. However, the understanding of the psychosocial and spiritual aspects of the individual’s life and the suffering and needs of caring relatives are central to the provision of palliative care. Introducing medical students to the philosophy and practice of palliative care is essential in developing a medical workforce for the future who understand the concepts and complexities of care, and who will be in a position to take forward the National Strategy for Palliative Care in the Republic of Serbia.