The limitations imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic have brought some unexpected gains including a surge in participants for the Palliative Care Fellowship, a unique training programme delivered jointly by educators and practitioners from India, Bangladesh and the United Kingdom.
Professor Heather Richardson, Joint Chief Executive, St Christopher’s Hospice, London, and Honorary Professor, Lancaster University, UK, and Dr Libby Sallnow, Senior Clinical Academic at St Christopher’s, and Palliative Care Consultant at Central and North West London NHS Trust, UK, explain.
For five days during the first week in February, 136 delegates from 43 countries logged on to participate in the Palliative Care Fellowship – the third time this course has taken place, but the first time online.
The Fellowship is a partnership between St Christopher’s Hospice London, UK, the Institute of Palliative Medicine Kerala, Sanjeevan Palliative Care Project Puducherry, both in India, and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University, Bangladesh. It builds on a shared belief in the power of learning through membership of a vibrant, connected community as well as the need to identify and promote new models of palliative care globally.
The Fellowship goals
The ambition for the Fellowship is to identify and support new leaders; those who, despite huge challenges, are transforming end-of-life care. These people, in the eyes of the programme organisers, are starting from the right place, where community involvement is paramount, and power is shared with citizens. The aim of the Fellowship is to focus on big picture strategy and resource allocation and consider how to deliver and grow services in low- and middle-income countries, including and beyond clinical care.
Move online broadens Fellowship
The two previous Fellowship courses have been hosted at the Institute of Palliative of Medicine in Kerala which has, under Dr Suresh Kumar’s leadership, championed a community approach to palliative care.
The limitations imposed by COVID-19 did bring some gains. Delegate numbers trebled from the 40 who travelled to India in previous years. And being online, it was possible to accommodate different time zones, with the course running in the late morning, afternoon and early evening in the eastern hemisphere, and in the mornings and afternoons for those in the west.
There are real benefits to being online. It undoubtedly helped to democratise learning and increase numbers, and by pricing it at $100 we’ve always aimed to make it accessible to all. As well as wider participation, this format gave a voice to people who might not get to contribute to a traditional conference. Delegates from countries as diverse as Iran, Chile, The Maldives and Bhutan have participated this year.
People joining from their clinic or kitchen table have been able to network, articulate their challenges, come up with solutions and then receive real time feedback from palliative care leaders around the world. Relationships are growing between participants as they get to know each other. Some delegates discovered ‘colleagues’ in their own countries that they never knew existed and this is helping them jointly to advocate palliative care and influence policy in their regions.
The course began with a one-week intensive programme in early February 2021. Participants subsequently meet formally on a monthly basis for five months for further learning as well as accessing optional workshops at weekends. The programme includes lectures, workshops, group work, assignments and an exam. The hope is that pandemic permitting, a cohort will be able to travel to meet face to face in India in September.
Amongst the feedback we’ve received from delegates, Catherine Ooi, General Manager of Kasih Hospice Foundation in Malaysia, said:
“I think I will emerge from the programme more certain of my values and my direction. And with a new, far better map to help me navigate.”
While Archana Ganesh, Assistant National Information Officer for the Indian Palliative Care Association said:
“There is such an enormous networking and cross fertilization of ideas and concepts which one would have never had access to otherwise.”
The organisers look to continue to grow the Fellowship to address the inequities in end-of-life care by sharing these ideas and concepts from around the world.
- Contact the authors by email: Heather Richardson; Libby Sallnow.
- Follow Libby Sallnow on Twitter @libby_sallnow
- St Christopher’s Hospice.
- Follow St Christopher’s on Facebook, Twitter,
- The Institute of Palliative Medicine, Kerala. Contact by email for details of future Palliative Care Fellowship courses.
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