A mixed method study which included the use of focus group discussions and an online survey was done in Kenya, Malawi and South Africa to assess the professional development needs of Palliative Care Programme Managers (PCPM) working in hospices in South and East Africa.These three countries were chosen because of their variability in the hope that the results would be generalizable across the greater Southern and Central African region.
The results of this assessment showed that PCPM are in need of support and training to improve their managerial function, in the form of mentorship and coaching as well as discussion forums for PCPMs and training in the following topics: HR, Professional Development, Resource Management, Advocacy, Monitoring and Evaluation, Team Dynamics and Stress Management.
It has become increasingly obvious that in order to strengthen health systems in Africa, it is essential to prioritise the support and strengthening of health workforces and the results of this study show that PCPM are in need of this support and strengthening. They work in very rural and poorly resourced areas and they are crying out for development and moreover, for programmes which will support them holistically and help them to assimilate and translate training to the practical environment in which they work.
Based on these results, HPCA developed a training curriculum and training material which has been piloted in South Africa. The training has been well received and it is hoped that the roll out of this training will extend beyond the borders of South Africa to include countries across Southern and East Africa and eventually across the broader African continent.
In addition to the development of the training programme, an HPCA task team are currently working on a follow up mentorship programme and impact study to evaluate the effects of this development programme for PCPMs in the context of the hospice environment in which they work. It is important to HPCA that this development programme shows an impact at the hospice level and translates into better quality care for the patients in the community.
In line with the HPCA vision of Quality Palliative Care for All and the WHOs commitment to strengthening health system and health workforces, this study and its resulting professional development programme hopes to increase the PCPMs ability to manage their programmes more efficiently, and thereby expand the reach and quality of the palliative care services provided by hospices in Africa.