50 healthcare workers participated in two seminars held over four days in June. Nurses, doctors, social workers and nurse tutors from the KCMC nursing school were invited to attend the mixed seminars.
KCMC is a large tertiary referral centre in Northern Tanzania which has beds for around 800 inpatients. The seminars were titled: ‘An Introduction to Palliative Care’ and were delivered for the first time as part of the hospital’s continuing professional education activities.
The hospital is planning the opening of a new cancer treatment centre this year to provide cancer services in the northern region of Tanzania.
Currently, cancer treatment is available in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam, an eight hour bus ride away.
As the hospital prepares to receive higher numbers of people in need of palliative care for cancer, these seminars have come at a fantastic time to sensitise staff to the importance of palliative care.
The plans for running introductory seminars for staff came about following a mixed-methods study at the hospital. During focus group discussions, the overwhelming majority of staff called for more training in palliative care.
A chaplain interviewed at KCMC, said: “I just feel for those who did not receive (palliative care training) or those who studied a long time ago… because this is something we are not going to run away from.
“Cancer cases are increasing day after day, and there are many other illnesses which need palliative care. So I would really wish to see that all healthcare providers have the basic concepts of palliative care and they get to understand they have to identify themselves with this service.”
A resident doctor from internal medicine said: “Palliative care has to be taught on post-graduate as well as undergraduate courses, students should be aware of palliative care, what are the components of palliative care, which patients are supposed to receive palliative care… so we need it actually.”
Local expert trainers from Arusha Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania were invited to deliver the seminars.
Dr Mbando (Palliative Care Manager, ELCT, Arusha and Deputy Chairperson, Board of Directors, Tanzania Palliative Care Association) and Dr Bakari (Palliative care physician at Nkoaranga Hospital), led the seminars alongside four trained specialist nurses, Sister Tumaini Kweka, Sister Anna Mahenge, Sister Anna Massawe and Sister Elizabeth Makule.
Our huge thanks go to them for their fantastic work in delivering these successful seminars.
The topics covered included an introduction to the concept of palliative and hospice care, assessing pain and safe prescribing of analgesia according to the WHO analgesic ladder.
The content taught was based on the materials of the African Palliative Care Association’s: ‘A Handbook of Palliative Care in Africa.’
Funding for the seminars came from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust which has a longstanding relationship with KCMC. We hope that the relationship will continue to grow in the future as the profile and activity of palliative care services at KCMC increases.
Feedback from participants was very positive, with all saying that they would recommend the seminar to a colleague. Here are some of their comments:
A doctor from the paediatrics department said they most enjoyed: “learning about palliative care and how it is a neglected part of medicine and is of huge importance in our setting, (also learning about) communication skills of medical practitioners being paramount in taking care of our patients.”
A social worker commented: “I enjoyed the seminar, because I got the chance to learn about palliative care. Up till now I had heard about it but I didn’t know exactly what it was, but now I understand.”
Thanks to all involved in the organisation and delivery of these successful seminars. Let us hope that staff will take their new learning and use it in the future, especially as services for cancer patients and palliative care patients develop in this region of Tanzania.