Dr Juan Pablo Leiva, a palliative care consultant at the Hospital of Manacor in Mallorca-Balearic Islands, Spain, explains what inspired him to develop a training course for local firefighters as part of his coursework with the European Palliative Care Academy (EUPCA).
“ . . . If I found children in a crashed car, it was dreadful for me because I also have children. It is impossible not to feel emotional when children are also victims . . . When I was back home, I pretended that everything was going OK . . . but for some reason my wife knew it was not . . .” A 42-year-old firefighter.
What are the needs and resources firefighters draw upon to face their difficult encounters with death and dying in their daily work? I work as a palliative care consultant at the Hospital of Manacor in Mallorca and also take part in a sports compassionate community which supports palliative care, it is called FIT for CARE, where some volunteer members are also employed by the Fire Service in Spain. This fact drove me to discover my interest in the death and dying issues for firefighters on duty. To our knowledge, few guidelines are available to educate firefighters about coping with death and dying. As a participant on the European Palliative Care Academy (EUPCA) Leadership Course, I therefore chose as my special project to develop a training course for firefighters in Mallorca. Our team carried out the project between October 2015 and February 2017 under the supervision of Professor Allan Kellehear from the University of Bradford. I was able to further this professional connection during my Observation Week, a mandatory part of the EUPCA course.
Following the development of the project, the Government of the Balearic Islands (through the General Office of Emergencies of the Consejería del Interior of Balearic Islands) in collaboration with the Hospital of Manacor, authorised the implementation of the curriculum for all newly qualified firefighters in Mallorca. The training programme is called ‘Death and Dying in the Fire Services – Mallorca Educational Programme’. It will consist of two phases:
- Introduction to the educational programme for all firefighters employed by the ‘Consell de Mallorca’, Balearic Islands, in 2017.
- Implementation of the full 16-hour training programme for new firefighters employed in 2018.
The full training programme was conducted as a workshop during two intensive training days. Beyond phases 1 and 2, a third is considered as a continuum of phase 1, offering the full training programme for firefighters already working in the ‘Consell de Mallorca’.
The study on which this educational programme project is based has enabled us to identify that there is a substantial need for education regarding death and dying issues for firefighters. To this end, we suggested a broad outline of a curriculum is based upon the needs experienced and described by the firefighters participating in this study.
For the individuals who take this curriculum, we expect:
- Increased ability of self-care.
- Increased ability to take care of each other and a decrease in burnout.
- Increased ability to provide effective care for victims.
According to the scientific literature, firefighters from ‘Consell de Mallorca’ in Spain are going to be the first fire service to be trained in this very important field. We are delighted to be able to offer firefighters the chance to better equip themselves for dealing with this most difficult part of their jobs.
- ‘The Meaning of Death and Dying for Spanish Firemen: A Curriculum Development Study’; poster number P01-430 will be displayed in Poster Set 1 on Thursday, 18 May 2017.
- Contact Dr J P Leiva by email.
- Meet EUPCA at the 15th EAPC World Congress in Madrid (19th May, 8am, N111; stand No. 20).
- Applications are being accepted for the 3rd European Palliative Care Academy – Leadership Course 2017-2019 until 11 June 2017. For more information, visit the website.
- Follow EUPCA on Twitter @EUPCAleadership and Facebook.
- You can read more posts on the EAPC Blog about the European Palliative Care Academy Leadership Course and also the FIT for CARE programme by Dr J P Leiva.