RESPACC – ‘Research for Palliative Care Clinicians’ – is an European Union Erasmus + project that aims to encourage basic research competences in the day-to-day practice of palliative care clinicians. Dimitra Foteinopoulou & Professor Sheila Payne tell us more about how RESPACC rose to the educational challenges presented by the pandemic.
In the context of post-pandemic uncertainty about travel and social restrictions, carrying out an Erasmus + project and developing educational activities was challenging. The RESPACC team needed to adapt quickly and developed blended learning workshops in Europe to deliver training of clinicians on palliative care research methods. Blended online and face-to-face training for groups of up to fifty participants allowed effective, real-time interaction among participants and the speakers, regardless of the format of attendance. As this may become the ‘new normal’ globally, we wanted to share what we have learnt.
Interactive teaching is a cornerstone of Palliative Care education. Online courses in the pandemic era have posed problems in not enabling the face-to-face interaction of participants. Online platforms with break out room sessions have tried to facilitate small group discussions while allowing participants all over the world to have access to real time synchronous education and interaction with peers. However, in the emerging post Covid era, participants and organisers would most likely want to maintain the advantages of remote online participation in training, while at the same time enjoy the benefits of face-to-face interaction. Thus, the need for blended, hybrid courses emerged. We found that establishing them depends on in-house resources available and creates new challenges, and opportunities for palliative care education.
A hybrid course is a mixture of on-site and online meeting which unites participants, speakers at the venue with remote participants and sometimes speakers. Participants can choose whether to attend in person or online.
Galilee Palliative Care Centre organised a hybrid three-day training event in May 2022, on ‘Introducing palliative care clinicians to critical reading and academic writing’, as part of the RESPACC project. Galilee’s IT Administration team sole aspiration was to give both online and on-site participants the same experience and additional value. Both audiences would be able to contribute to the meeting, respond to polls during the event, ask questions directly to the presenters, work in groups, present results and fully engage in the training.
Organisation and Technical Equipment: Galilee’s team organisation started preparations almost two weeks beforehand, since it was the first time that the team had run a joint on-site and online event. The budget, people and technical resources were planned carefully to minimise unwanted ‘surprises’: four people and equipment, including two cameras (with all the relevant technical support), a sound mixer and a camera mixer. These resources included back-ups in case of emergency. A rehearsal took place the day before the official event launch to enable the team to check all connections, event layout, lighting, presentations, sound etc. Each person in the IT Administration team had a clearly defined role during the meeting (one responsible for the cameras and sound, one responsible for the online participants, one for the on-site participants/speakers and one coordinator/director).
Feedback: First impressions from participants in the room were positive, ‘Good organisation, High quality session’, ‘Good atmosphere’, ‘Excellent material’, ‘It was very professional’. No-one mentioned that the blended event negatively interfered with their educational experience. Online participants evaluated the experience as ‘The organization was amazing. I did not expect I would be included as much as the participants in the room’. Most importantly, everybody shared pure enthusiasm to improve their research expertise after the hands-on experience offered during the training: ‘I will start a Journal Club’, ‘I will write an article and a poster’. Presenters expressed their satisfaction regarding the interaction between online and on-site audiences and could easily engage participants in the training.
Future adjustments: presenters may consider visiting the breakout rooms to clarify issues on the working assignment. Moreover, the use of the whiteboard tool may further facilitate sharing ideas and creating a joint project online.
Somebody may say it was beginner’s luck, but Galilee’s organisation and real time agile management were the key to good administration and better use of the in-house resources. As the Roman philosopher Seneka said, “Luck Is What Happens When Preparation Meets Opportunity”.
All this celebration is due to the inspiration, very hard work and preparation, by the managerial team of Galilee: Aliki Tserkezoglou (Head of Galilee), Mary Dionisi (Head of Administration), Nikolaos Schalekis (IT responsible), Dimitris Spyratos (Cameras & Sound Responsible) and Oana Predoiu RESPACC Project Manager from HOSPICE Casa Sperantei. Thank you all.
The “Research for Palliative Care Clinicians” RESPACC program (Ref. 2020-1-RO01-KA202-080128) is funded through Erasmus+ Programme, Key Action 2 (Strategic Partnerships- Vocational Education and Training) as a joint venture of the following Institutions: Hospice Casa Sperantei, Romania (Coordinator); European Association of Palliative Care, Belgium; University of Navarra, Spain; Transilvania University of Brasov Romania and Galilee Palliative Care Centre, Greece.
About the authors
Dimitra Foteinopoulou holds a BSc (Hons) in Biology and an MSc (Distinction) in Management, currently working as an Administration employee in Galilee Palliative Care Centre, Greece.
Sheila Payne is Emeritus Professor at the International Observatory on End of Life Care, Lancaster University, United Kingdom (UK). Twitter: @SheilaPayne1 ORCID: 0000-0001-6982-9181.
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