Fundamentals of palliative care

Professor Rod MacLeod MNZM is the lead academic for palliative care at HammondCare and Conjoint Professor in Palliative Care at the University of Sydney Medical School, Australia. He is international advisor to Hospice New Zealand. Here, Prof. MacLeod explains the background to a longer article that is published in the November/December issue of the European Journal of Palliative Care.

Prof Rod MacLeod

When I started working in palliative care in 1988, I was well aware that it was all very well learning about it myself but if we were to make a real difference to the care of people who are dying then I had to learn about teaching. I also had to understand how people learn and then develop learning opportunities for them to do so.

Initially, my interest was in medical education, undertaking a Diploma and then a Master’s degree at the University of Dundee. Later, my PhD had as its title ‘Changing the way that doctors learn to care for people who are dying’. I’m fortunate to have been able to teach in many countries across the globe but in New Zealand and Australia I have been fortunate to find like-minded people with a passion for teaching about this essential aspect of health care.

In Anne Morgan, I found an expert communicator who is passionate and skilled at teaching. She led the process for Hospice New Zealand in the development of the innovative programme ‘Fundamentals of Palliative Care’. With support from Mary Schumacher the CEO and the Board, we have been able to develop a series of modules that are relevant and flexible enough to be of interest to many in the sector. Working with experts from residential care, gerontology and Maori health provision a series of nine modules has been created that have been rolled out across the country, initially in hospice programmes and residential care. Many thousands of participants have enjoyed these opportunities for learning. A tenth module concerning spiritual care has also been delivered and evaluated (see May/June 2015 edition of the European Journal of Palliative Care).

Hospice New Zealand’s course materials

What has resulted is a nationally consistent education programme to support generalist palliative care providers to deliver effective care near the end of life. The New Zealand Ministry of Health apportioned funding in 2010 to allow Hospice New Zealand to develop an education programme for Aged Care Providers in the first instance. This is a true partnership of equals: hospice educators and aged care experts working together to deliver the programme where it is needed most. The modules build on the knowledge that the participants already have; provides them with a workbook to refer to after the events, and offers an evaluation of learning to enable them to follow up on areas they are uncertain of.

Evaluation so far has been positive. Time alone will tell if this is making a real difference but we are delighted with progress so far. The multi-disciplinary teams come together and enjoy working together, learning with and from each other, a collaborative venture that bodes well for the future. Our hope is that we can develop this programme further to make it relevant and applicable to all healthcare workers, wherever they are, so that that all people in New Zealand, no matter where they live, will have access to good quality palliative care in the last years of their life.

Read the full article in the European Journal of Palliative Care
This post relates to a longer article, ‘Making a difference through education: an education programme for residential care in New Zealand’ by Anne Morgan, Rod MacLeod and Mary Schumacher published in the November/December 2015 issue of the European Journal of Palliative Care (vol. 22.6).  If you have a web-based subscription to the journal you’ll be able to download this issue, plus all articles in the journal archive. You can also browse the archive and download articles by taking a 10-minute or 30-minute subscription. Members of the EAPC receive discounted subscription rates to the journal – click here to subscribe online. 

Hospice New Zealand education and training programmes.

Editor’s note: Professor MacLeod was awarded the title of MNZM (Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit) in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2015 for his work in hospice and palliative care.