Tomoyo Sasahara, RN, PhD, Division of Health Innovation and Nursing, Faculty of Medicine, University of Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan, took part in what is possibly one of the biggest palliative care meetings in the world – the 20th Congress of the Japanese Society for Palliative Medicine held in Yokohama, Japan, in June 2015.
The Japanese Society for Palliative Medicine is the biggest palliative care-related society in Japan, with about 11,000 registered members across all disciplines. The main theme of this year’s memorable 20th congress was ‘Making our dreams come true – the past 20 years and towards tomorrow’. The congress offered a wide variety of sessions: 19 lectures with four guest speakers from overseas, 36 symposia, six forums, eight workshops and poster sessions. Despite very bad weather on one day there was an astonishing number of participants – approximately 7,800 people participated in the congress over two days. Even with ten sessions taking part simultaneously, every room was awash with participants!
With so many fascinating sessions to choose from, I picked ‘Palliative Care for Adolescents and Young Adults (AYAs) with Cancer’ because the number of these patients has been increasing in Japan due to the growing prevalence rate and improved treatment. A clinical oncologist, clinical psychologist, clinical nurse specialist in paediatrics and a medical social worker presented the many problems associated with AYAs with cancer, such as:
・survivorship: work, study, rehabilitation, appearance, sexuality, marriage, fertility, secondary cancer;
・palliative care for progressive cancer;
・communication between AYAs with cancer and healthcare providers;
・family care (AYAs’ parents, partners, children).
I was impressed to hear that healthcare professionals treated AYAs as adults and became less involved with them, although they were more actively involved when treating children. The development of a systematic care programme, a team approach and a social support programme were suggested as ways of supporting AYAs with cancer.
End-of-Life Care Nursing Education in Japan
Representing the ELNEC-J Working Group (End-of-Life Care Nursing Education Consortium Japan), I took part in the ‘Continuing Nursing Education for Palliative and End-of-Life Care’ symposium, giving a presentation on ‘ELNEC-J – past, present and future’. The ELNEC project is a national education initiative to improve palliative care that started in 2000 in the USA. Since 2007, I have been involved in developing a Japanese version of the ELNEC Core-Curriculum to improve the knowledge and skills of staff nurses in our country. The ELNEC-J project has been successful; there are currently about 1,300 trained ELNEC-J nurses who have taught about 12,300 staff nurses all over the country. While ELNEC-J consists of basic knowledge about end-of-life care, different levels of palliative care/end-of-life care nursing education projects have also been developed and were presented at the symposium.
A personal highlight for me was the chance to see Professor Sheila Payne again for the first time in about a decade – she was one of the guest speakers at the congress and had been my supervisor in a short-term study programme at the University of Sheffield in 2002. Seeing Professor Payne at this very fruitful congress re-inspired me once again!