In the light of new global challenges, many of us now want to evaluate and rethink how palliative care services should be developed in our locality. There’s also a growing acceptance that multi-professional learning is what is needed if we are to challenge inequalities of provision and suffering at the end of life around the world, through the sharing of skills and advocacy. At St Christopher’s Hospice, in London, we have created a Multi-Professional Academy programme to help affect change.
We are proud of our track record in this field. For over 20 years hundreds of health professionals from all over the world, specialising in the full range of disciplines, have been coming to London twice a year to undertake an intensive programme known as Multi-Professional Week (including 120 on a full bursary). For clinicians new to palliative care or considering the introduction of a palliative care service in their country or region, attending the programme at St Christopher’s has provided the platform to learn how to deliver holistic palliative and end of life care in the setting and communities in which they work. However, we are now seeing greater interest and an increased need for support for those who want to re-evaluate palliative care in their locality.
St Christopher’s has responded to this shift by creating the Multi-Professional Academy (MPA). The defining feature of this programme is a ready-made community of like-minded professionals who are willing and able to share their experiences and responses to shared challenges as well as knowledge and skills.
The five-day programme still draws on all the expertise St Christopher’s has to offer, but many recent graduates find the ongoing benefits of the community of learning the stand-out feature. Students stay connected, to continue to be inspired by the courage and determination of their peers, their contemporaries scattered around the globe, and they can together collect data, measure outcomes and share knowledge as an international community of practice.
Now for the first time, the MPA programme will be delivered online, giving health and social care professionals worldwide the chance to come together to ‘observe’ services at St Christopher’s as well as draw on the expertise and experience of their fellow students.
For Marie Rose Ntigura, appointed in March 2019 to head the first palliative care unit at Mazabuka General Hospital in Zambia, last year’s MPA programme helped inspire a new community service. The hospital was seeing 700 terminally ill patients a year, only 130 of which received specialist palliative care and 98% were discharged to die at home with little or no support.
“The ‘home visits’ that I managed to be part of with the St Christopher’s team opened up my mind, gave me a hint of what it should be and also the courage to face the reality on the ground, where there is nothing…or almost and yet something needing to be done. Thus, many palliative care patients are community based and deserve the right to live a pain free life and to die in dignity.”
Marie Rose has been able to establish a mobile, community hospital palliative care team, manned by volunteers who receive some palliative care training.
“St Christopher’s MPA course was that given opportunity. It was a learning platform and a high ’window’ which not only improved my conception of palliative care but also provided me with new skills, knowledge and confidence through educational meetings with a variety of passionate of palliative care providers with various expertise from all over the world.”
To demonstrate the importance St Christopher’s places on the holistic nature of end of life care, the pool of contributors goes way beyond the hospice’s expert team of clinical professionals. Participants also benefit from contributions from patients, family members, volunteers and other community members engaged in the work of the hospice.
The course is a blend of facilitated, structured and interactive online learning and this is then followed by ongoing online Action Learning facilitated by the MPA tutors over six months. Participants then submit an assignment to be eligible for the St Christopher’s Academy Award.
One of the advantages of this year’s online delivery of the programme is that students will be divided into smaller groups with similar time zones to enable group discussion and activities. These regional groups will work together throughout the week and beyond and deliver a presentation to their peers on the final day. MPA students can access the virtual classroom via St Christopher’s online learning platform where they will find articles, interactive activities, and resources to support their own self-directed learning, in addition to the two-hour live sessions each day.
Current and past practice at St Christopher’s is also an essential part of the programme, not because they should be seen either as a template or exemplar, but to inspire participants and to demonstrate how, when a small group of like-minded, motivated people come together they can achieve an extraordinary amount.
One recent graduate from the programme who took that inspiration back home is Pauline Sant, a physiotherapist in Malta’s main oncology hospital where she says that the voluntary nature of the palliative care training in the post graduate programmes has a negative impact on delivery, especially at a time when there is a growing need.
Pauline added: “The course helped me to strengthen knowledge on palliative care, and to widen the palliative care philosophy from cancer focused to any type of progressive condition.”
From her own perspective as a physiotherapist, Pauline says the programme has helped provide her with the confidence to respond to common requests from families.
“Palliative care should be adding life to days and not days to life. This phrase still echoes in my mind. Patient centred care is the key, and the patient must be allowed to make his own choice after being given all the options. Very often the relatives push for restorative rehabilitation which can be taxing for the patient. So here is the importance of communication skills to set up realistic goals.”
Having returned to Malta, Pauline has designed a clinical induction programme to address the taboo that still exists around palliative care rehabilitation. She’s now been appointed to coordinate the course and is expecting to start delivery in September 2020.
Full details of the Multi-Professional Academy Programme starting on 19 October are available here.
For further information, spokespeople or photography please contact:
Suzy Fisk, Communications Lead
Tel: 020 8768 4510, Mobile: 07554 422 167