Dr. Alejandro Nespral is a pediatrician caring for children with complex, life-limiting illnesses in Briloche – Rio Negro, Argentina. Here, she explains how her Traveling Scholarship has enriched her work in pediatric palliative care.
In recent years, pediatric palliative care (CPP) in Argentina has grown and developed. However, there remain many regions of our country where there is a lack of trained professionals and teams to care for children and families in need of palliative care. In November 2014, thanks to an IAHPC Traveling Scholarship, I was able to attend the 2nd Congress of Pediatric Palliative Care – ‘a Global Gathering’ in Rome, Italy, organized by the Maruzza Foundation.
It was undoubtedly a great personal and professional experience for me. Over three days, with more than 500 people from 50 different countries, I could learn, share experiences and ponder on the daily tasks that we perform, in a friendly and motivating environment.
The congress featured a varied program with internationally renowned leaders in the field of CPP. Having the opportunity to listen to many of them and, in some cases, to discuss points of view, was for me a stimulus that still lingers. The congress included plenary sessions, workshops and poster sessions, which allowed me to cover several issues and meet different people. A central theme was teaching, essential for achieving effectiveness in building networks of care for this population of children and adolescents. The free papers session enabled us to exchange ideas with people from different countries about new models of care and organization of services (day centers, hospices) for children with chronic and complex diseases. This was also an opportunity to pick up new ideas, such as the use of new technologies for this population (web platforms for children and families, mobile applications for symptom control, etc.).
Opportunities such as this allow us to see our work from ‘another perspective’, to discover other ways of doing palliative care, and to benefit from similarities and differences. The motivational boost of having participated in this congress has been reflected, on my return, with the enthusiasm with which I shared the experience with my colleagues, as well as the emergence of specific projects to improve and expand the care of children with palliative needs and their families.
Historical and cultural diversities from different countries and regions can offer different solutions to similar problems. It was thus very interesting to hear about new projects being carried out by other teams. The congress’s major focus on teaching and research in CPP will help me to take up the challenge and see concrete possibilities to develop children’s palliative care in the city and region where I live.
Personally, I think that palliative care in general, and pediatric in particular, have made significant strides in recent years though much still remains to be done, especially in the dissemination of this model/philosophy of work, for healthcare workers as well as the public. The congress enabled us to learn about initiatives, many of them through non-governmental organizations, which aim to increase community awareness of palliative care. The congress also enabled colleagues from different Latin American countries to meet each other. To provide uniform and adequate CPP in much of our region still remains an outstanding debt.
I would like to emphasize how well organized the Traveling Scholarship program is and how friendly the people from IAHPC have been at all times.
Dr. Alejandro Nespral.