According to the Kenya Palliative Care Policy 2021-2030, about 800,000 people need palliative care every year,(MOH,2021). Unfortunately, only about 14,552 Kenyans are accessing these services. While there have been progressively efforts in palliative care provision, there is still a shortage of leaders to drive the palliative care agenda in the country. Palliative leadership anchors the practice to deliver, access, educate and spread palliative care skills for all health care professionals. In this call to action, we review the key role of nursing in palliative care, and how empowering nurses as leaders can fast track palliative care development.
Nurses are the focal group in facilitating quality of life and improving holistic patient care ranging from the spiritual, physical, social, financial, and psychological domains. Therefore, there is a need to train nurses with knowledge and skills to impact, educate, and provide impeccable services. The Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) has supported the integration of palliative care within the health care system through training programs. To date, although palliative care is embraced in the nursing fraternity, there is still a gap in training programs aimed at empowering nurses into leadership. The nurses represent the largest group of caregivers in Kenya, hence cultivating their leadership skills brings a unique leadership perspective to healthcare.
KEHPCA, with funding support from Hospice Care Kenya (HCK) and JB Doherty Family Foundation, launched the Palliative Care Nurse Leadership Initiative – Kenya in 2021 aimed at strengthening the leadership skills of nurses to improve service delivery, teaching, and advocacy. The project built on a successful Bangladesh Nurse Leadership Training program that equipped nurses with the knowledge, and skills in leadership by establishing a core group of palliative care nurse educators and advocates. Taking the lessons learned from the previous program, the project aimed at developing and improving palliative care nurse leadership skills in Kenya.
The Palliative Care Nurse Leadership Initiative – Kenya is a program focusing on supporting and empowering Palliative Care nurses spread throughout Kenya in a variety of counties. The goal of the initiative is to identify opportunities for leadership and increase nurse workplace engagement through teaching and facilitating workshops focused on Palliative Care topics. Out of a pool of nurses who applied, eight were selected. They were trained on effective delivery of palliative care education, leadership, advocacy in palliative care, organizational skills and effective communication. The learning methodologies included skills in creating and delivering interactive presentations, peer-to-peer reviews and feedback.
By the end of this program, the nurse leaders are expected to take lead in supporting capacity building and educational activities in their setting. Their target is to penetrate all specialities with increased awareness of Palliative Care approaches and to engage and motivate a multidisciplinary team of doctors, social workers, spiritual caregivers, and community health volunteers to work together in the provision of high-quality palliative care to those in need.
The program had realized great gains in the last year, and going forward, we recommend a continuation of the nurse leadership program to a second year to produce a critical mass of nurse leaders who build a culture of shared responsibility through leadership and uphold the assertion that “everyone has the right, responsibility, and ability to be a leader” (Lambert, 2002).
With Kenya ranked as one of the most dynamic in palliative care development, an initiative such as this will impact the development of palliative care for the future and positively influence families, patients, and their colleagues into maximizing their efforts in imparting holistic palliative care. These skills will anchor them in a solid leadership foundation and help them move beyond the preconceived limitations of a nurse to empower others and create more developments in the field of Palliative Care in Kenya. At KEHPCA, we believe this initiative will build sustainable teams and have an impact on nurse leadership in palliative care to improve the quality of life of people with palliative care needs.
If you would like to get more information on this program or have suggestions for ways to network, please reach out to KEHPCA and we would love to connect. We are in the process of looking for ways to continue to fund this initiative, so if you also have any recommendations, please do not hesitate to email us.