Dr Avetis Babakhanyan, Hospital of Police of Armenia, Masis Medical Center, Armenia, explains the value of small training seminars that make a big difference.
Recently I attended a seminar in Salzburg, Austria, dedicated to Palliative Care in Neurology and Neuro-Oncology (23 February-1 March 2014). The seminar was organised by Open Society Foundations (Soros Foundation) together with Austrian-American Foundation (AAF). Thirty-seven participants attended (neurologists, oncologists, anesthesiologists, GPs and palliative care workers) from Albania, Armenia, Georgia, Moldova, Mongolia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Estonia, Czech Republic and Macedonia. The faculty included distinguished specialists from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York, USA) led by Kathleen Foley and Alan Carver.
The one-week intensive educational course was very useful and productive. The course covered important topics of palliative care mainly related to neurological problems, including: strategies for communicating bad news, caregiver burnout, grief and bereavement.
The sessions were interactive enabling both participants and faculty members to ask questions and make comments. A bonus was that faculty members encouraged us to ask any questions relating to palliative care, even those beyond the discussed themes. I am sure that we all got a lot of information that will certainly help us to provide better palliative care in our own countries. Particularly, for me, there were many ‘take home’ messages and approaches that will help me in my everyday practice: headache differential diagnosis, worrisome headache ‘red flags’, seizures and delirium management, advance care planning and the seven-step protocol to negotiate goals of care, and sedation at the end of life guidelines.We also appreciated the role-plays performed by the faculty members and participants.
Another source of ideas to take home to Armenia was the Salzburg Hospice– a well-furnished and equipped institution that provides the best possible support to terminally ill patients. I was impressed by two simple but very meaningful initiatives that the hospice implements. First, there is an archive (storage) corner where they keep papers with pictures, writings and paintings of every patient who has died in the hospice. Second, there is a corner in the hospice where two huge candles are lit every time someone dies, and those candles are extinguished when the body is removed from the hospice.
During the course we all received some educational materials including CDs such as (EPEC-O – Education in Palliative and End-of-Life Care for Oncology and the ‘Life before death’ film http://www.lifebeforedeath.com).
I would like to express my gratitude to the organisers of this important event, especially to Mary Callaway, a woman who has devoted herself to palliative care development worldwide for many years.
Perhaps as a follow up, I think a seminar focusing on physical symptoms and management issues would be very useful…
Click here to read other posts about Armenia on the EAPC blog.