A week is a long time in politics…

Dr Gillian Chowns has a background in specialist palliative care social work; she is a Visiting Fellow at the University of Southampton, UK, and Founder and Co-director of Palliative Care Works. Here she talks about a free training resource that is helping to bring effective, practical, one-week training in countries as diverse as Russia, Tanzania, India and Ghana.

Dr Gillian Chowns

Dr Gillian Chowns

As a former British prime minister once said,  ‘A week is a long time in politics’ – but it’s also a long time in training these days, when the pressure is on education budgets, staffing levels and days that refuse to expand to more than 24 hours! True as this may be for us in Europe, it’s perhaps even more the case in resource-poor countries, where palliative care services are thinly scattered, funding inadequate and unmet need enormous.

For those of us who find ourselves teaching basic palliative care in such places, a full week’s course is then an absolute luxury. Nevertheless, the challenge remains – how to cover all the essentials in a clear, culturally appropriate manner?

Over the years in which I taught and travelled in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Malawi, Zimbabwe and Botswana, I became acutely aware of the need for lively, low-cost and practical teaching materials that both hard-pressed professionals and home-based carers could access. The first university accredited Africa-based Diploma in Palliative Care, which our team at Oxford Brookes University had pioneered, had enabled key practitioners to graduate from an academically rigorous internationallyrecognised course, but my Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship in 2007 reminded me of the enormous unmet need for basic training. When I later founded Palliative Care Works (PCW), a not-for-profit consultancy which specialises in training in resource-poor countries, the ideal materials came to hand in the form of the Palliative Care Toolkit and its companion volume, the Trainer’s Manual.

Russian edition of the Palliative Care Toolkit

Russian edition of the Palliative Care Toolkit

Written by Vicky Lavy, Charlie Bond and Ruth Wooldridge, with contributions from a range of practitioners from almost every continent, the Toolkit’s down-to earth, ‘can-do’ approach to palliative care is designed to enable both professionals and volunteers to practise good palliative care despite limited resources. It covers all the key topics you would expect as well as essential chapters on team-building and advocacy. The Trainer’s Manual is equally practical and full of interactive exercises, excellent case scenarios and helpful teaching tips.

These two publications have together formed the basis for effective, practical, one-week training in countries as diverse as Russia, Tanzania, India and Ghana. Not only have they skilled up nurses, social workers and doctors, but pharmacists, home-based carers, pastors and counsellors too. In our week-long PCW workshops, we have used the resources to teach both new and established community and hospital teams. The enthusiasm of the students and their thirst for education is humbling, and the feedback on the Toolkit and Trainer’s Manual is overwhelmingly positive.

I love the way we were taught together. It was not like the usual lecture type (boring). This is something special. Big Ups!” (AIDSRelief course participant, Tanzania).

The Toolkit is excellent in communication and all other part[s] in caring to palliative care and hospice management.”
(Nepalese nurse).

Best of all, these resources are completely free of charge to download from the website of the Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance. And thanks to collaboration with several national palliative care associations, the Toolkit has been translated into Bengali, French, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili and Vietnamese. (The Trainer’s Manual, also free to download, is available in Bengali, French, Mandarin, Portuguese and Spanish).

If you are involved in teaching basic palliative care in a resource-poor country you might find the Toolkit and Training Manual a useful resource…

Find out more…

  • Click here to download a free copy of the Toolkit and/or Training Manual.
  • Click here for information on a one-day course in London on teaching with the Toolkit.
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