Medical students attend the first undergraduate course on palliative care in Serbia.

Categories: Education.

The Serbian medical schools: Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis and Kragujevac have accepted and included a palliative care course in their curriculum. The first courses in Belgrade began on 3 December 2012.

In 2009 the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Serbia published a national strategy for palliative care, which acknowledges the need for palliative care services to be integrated into the government health system and provided throughout Serbia. The strategy proposes that palliative care capacity be increased by means of a comprehensive education programme, formulation of better policies, increased drug availability and development of palliative care services. 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.

The undergraduate palliative medicine component of the curriculum is based on recommendations from the European Association of Palliative Care (EAPC). Initially the course has been accepted as an elective course, (although for the English course in Belgrade it is compulsory) and it has been recommended that it is incorporated as an obligatory course when feasible, such that all undergraduate medical students learn about key aspects of palliative medicine, its challenges, complexity and its immense personal and professional awards.

The palliative medicine course has been developed through the EU-funded project ‘Development of Palliative Care in the Republic of Serbia‘ which is managed by a consortium led by Oxford Policy Management. The course will be taught by a mixture of local and international experts. Teaching commenced on the English course at the University of Belgrade on Monday 3rd December, and on the Serbian course on Tuesday 4th December. 40 Serbian students and 14 international students attended the sessions which were given by Dr Natasa Milicevic, Dr Erna Haraldsdottir and Prof. Julia Downing. The course includes both theoretical and clinical components. The students are keen to learn about palliative medicine and the uptake for the first programme has been impressive. A course handbook has been developed and accepted by the medical schools and will be published as the first palliative care handbook in Serbian.

Work is also ongoing to integrate palliative care into the higher nursing schools and it is hoped that teaching will begin for nurses in the next academic year. Dr Natasa Milicevic, palliative care physician working on the project, commented: “One palliative care service can help a limited number of patients and their families, whereas a well developed network of palliative care services staffed with trained professionals can help a whole nation; therefore, education of health care professionals is one of the key prerequisites of good palliative care.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *