Together towards better palliative care education for nurses and physicians – the EduPal (Finland) project

Minna Hökkä, Project Manager, and Juho Lehto, Project Coordinator, explain more about the EduPal (Finland) project and how it aims to develop palliative nursing and medical education in Finland through multi-disciplinary cooperation.

Juho Lehto (left) and Minna Hökkä.

The need to ensure competence for nurses and physicians in the successful provision of quality palliative care is crucial. As such, the need to develop both nursing and medical education is shared between these two professions. Having already been addressed in Finland in official reports, and in discussions with students and colleagues, the foundations were laid for the start of a nationwide project to develop nursing and medical palliative care education together. Funding was obtained through a joint effort and the project, named EduPal,  launched in March 2018.

EduPal (Finland) is a national flagship project funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. The project includes most of the universities of applied sciences (UAS) providing nursing education and all five universities providing medical education in Finland. For almost three years, nursing and physician educators have together developed education in palliative care. One of the most important cornerstones in the project has been multidisciplinary cooperation.

The current state of education in palliative care was first evaluated by analyzing the curricula of the nursing and medical schools nationally. The most important competences for nurses 1 and physicians 2 were then studied to develop education, which would provide the required competences to professionals for each level of palliative care. Finally, large national surveys were made on graduating nursing and medical students to obtain the students’ views of the need to develop the education.

Based on the research made in the project, national recommendations for the curriculum of palliative care in undergraduate nursing and medical education were published (Hökkä M, Lehto J, Joutsia K et al. 2020) (Lehto J, Saarto T, Hirvonen O et al. 2020). In addition, reviews of effective teaching methods were made3 when developing the education. In collaboration with working life, a national specialization education curriculum (30 ECTS) for bachelor nurses was developed and launched in January 2020 in 16 UASs. Also, a Master’s degree in palliative care advanced practice nursing was developed and launched in 2020. Recommendations for the development of the current special education in palliative medicine for physicians will be published in 2021.

At the same time as the education was being developed, approaches to integrate palliative care as part of the social welfare and healthcare system were proceeding with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, with the participation of EduPal (Finland) project members. (Saarto T, & Finne-Sovari H. 2019).

One goal of the EduPal project was to facilitate international collaboration and as part of this work a successful application for Erasmus funding were made with international partners. The development of palliative care nursing education will continue at a European level through an Erasmus + project, NursEduPal@Euro, in collaboration with HOWEST University of Applied Science (Belgium), Kajaani University of Applied Sciences (Finland), the University of Transilvania in Brasov (Romania), Institute for Nursing Science Practice, Paracelsus Medical University, Salzburg (Austria) and the European Association for Palliative Care (EAPC)

In summary, the Finnish EduPal-project aims to offer high-quality palliative care for every patient and family based on their needs, from nursing homes to specialized units, by ensuring required competences to nurses and physicians.

References 

  1. Hökkä M, Martins Pereira S, Pölkki T, Kyngäs H, Hernández-Marrero P. Nursing competencies across different levels of palliative care provision: A systematic integrative review with thematic synthesis. Palliative Medicine. 2020a;34 (7):851–870.
  2. Melender H-L., Hökkä M., Saarto T. & Lehto J. The required competencies of physicians within palliative care from the perspectives of multi-professional expert groups: a qualitative study. BMC Palliative Care. 2020; 19:65.
  3. Hökkä M, Rajala M, Kaakinen P, Lehto J, Pesonen H-M. The effect of teaching methods in palliative care education for undergraduate nursing and medical students –  a systematic review. International Journal of Palliative Nursing. Accepted 15.2.2021

Links and resources

Three EduPal (Finland) videos to watch (with sub-titles in English):

Read more about education and training in palliative care on the EAPC blog.

More about the authors…

Minna Hökkä, RN, PhDc, is the Project Manager of EduPal. Minna is the Head of School at the School of Health and Social Services, Kajaani University of Applied Sciences, Kajaani, Finland.

Juho Lehto is the Project Coordinator of EduPal. Juho is Professor in Palliative Medicine in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Technology, Tampere University, Tampere, Finland.


EXPLORE NEW DIMENSIONS  17th  EAPC World Congress Online  #EAPC2021 – interactive live sessions 6 to 8 October 2021.

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