What is your background – how did you become interested in palliative care?
I am a psychologist, specialised in clinical neuropsychology. During my studies I worked as a volunteer in a hospice. After graduation I joined a palliative care research group at university and decided that I wanted to do research in this field.
Why did you decide to take an MSc in Palliative Care?
I am originally from Germany. In Germany there is no possibility for psychologists to get further, specialised training in palliative care. As I was interested in the field but never studied medicine or nursing, I felt I needed to learn the knowledge and skills.
What particularly appealed to you about the MSc at King’s?
The fact that it provides a very well-rounded programme. The MSc focuses not only on the standard symptom management and clinical skills in palliative care, but also teaches how to develop services and how to deliver psychosocial and spiritual care. Throughout the whole master’s programme there is a strong emphasis on research. One entire module and one more elective module teach the basics of research and epidemiology. The whole course provides an international perspective. You learn about palliative care in the UK and Europe, but also about palliative care services in low-income countries and what is needed to set up these services. I also liked the possibility to choose optional modules according to your interests. King’s College London is one of the leading universities in the world and the Cicely Saunders institute is the first stand-alone research institute for palliative care. The MSc offers you the unique opportunity to learn from these researchers and clinicians.
What did you like about the course?
I particularly liked the multi-professional approach. The course is open to all professions working in palliative care and to international students. Through getting to know your fellow students from Malaysia, Japan etc you also learn about their special perspective on palliative care and how palliative care is structured in their home countries. Also, the lecturers reflect this international and multi-professional approach.
What did you find challenging?
For somebody who is not familiar with the UK healthcare system, this course can be hard as it requires you to be familiar with how care is provided in the UK. With the assignments and the final master’s thesis, the course can be time-intensive. Although you only have to be in class for two weeks every other month, the associated homework takes some time to complete. For this it is best to get support from your employer. But it is manageable. For those that work, the master’s can be completed within two years. You can also go for a certificate or a diploma in palliative care, which is less time-intensive.
What are your plans now?
At the moment I study for a PhD within the Department of Palliative Care, Rehabilitation and Policy here at King’s College London.
Is there any advice you would like to pass on to other people thinking about taking the MSc?
Don’t hesitate! You will find great support by the people within the department and the lecturers and you will get the opportunity to meet palliative care doctors, nurses, psychologists, occupational therapist, physiotherapists etc. from all over the world. You will get a thorough and profound insight into how to best provide patient care, how to commission services, how to manage staff, how to evaluate your service etc. I am not aware of any other course that covers all these topics so well.
Scholarships through the Cicely Saunders Institute, subject to eligibility criteria, are currently available for entry in the January 2013 intake.