In May 2017, IAHPC awarded 28 traveling scholarships to healthcare professionals from 19 countries enabling them to attend the 15th World Congress of the European Association for Palliative Care in Madrid. We are delighted to publish below a selection of take home messages from grantees from Armenia, Georgia, Lithuania, Malaysia, Nepal and Thailand.
Narine, a physician from Yerevan, Armenia, has been working in palliative care for several years. As a member of a Ministry of Health working group, she is involved in strategy and the implementation of palliative care. Narine explains that she will share new knowledge obtained at the Congress with her working group colleagues and the people who are “really working in palliative care on a daily basis”.
“Every new congress gives me growing confidence in my professional work. I attended many sessions and listened to many brilliant lectures from famous professors, whose books have shaped my knowledge in palliative care. Several sessions gave me clues about how to work in particularly tough situations. I communicated with many palliative care specialists from other countries; every conversation – every shared experience – was of value to me. Sometimes just one word from another specialist can inspire and encourage you to new achievements.”
Yeva, who has a PhD, is from Yerevan, Armenia, and presented a poster at the congress: ‘Developing and Testing of the First Interdisciplinary Training Course, ‘Palliative Psychology in Armenia’. She was impressed by the congress, which had given her the chance to meet so many palliative care specialists in the same place.
“Palliative care in Armenia is still in the process of development. We have a lot of issues: from opioids to the lack of professionals. We have to work a lot to achieve changes. But it is not enough. It is important to know the main directions. Of course, every country has unique experiences and we have to make our own mistakes, the knowledge of the experience of other countries can help not only practically but can also inspire. So if you ask me what I received from the 15th EAPC World Congress, I will answer – inspiration. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet all these people who have dedicated their lives to realize one of the fundamental rights of the person: to live and to die with dignity.
“One of the most important things that my participation at the congress gave me was the new contacts and possibilities for cooperation and, of course, a lot of new information.”
Pati, a physician from Tbilisi, Georgia, explains that despite attempts from the Georgian government since 2000 to develop palliative care and improve availability and access to opioids, not enough effort has been made to refine the legislation adequately. This has resulted in a lack of priority for pain management, misconceptions about opioids, such as dependency and misuse of opioids, and fear of possible penalties. The congress has enabled her to gain new skills to redress legislation and educational issues.
“The congress gave me valuable experience in pain management and palliative care. New skills will enable me to accomplish my study on opioid availability and accessibility in Georgia; to assess and analyze the survey results correctly so that the recommendations are valid. I hope to publish the results in international peer-reviewed journals. Most importantly, this will allow me to influence national health authorities, currently reluctant to address any palliative care or pain management issues, in order to improve patients’ services by redressing legislation and educational issues. And especially new for me was advance care planning which is not developed at all in Georgia.”
Kathleen is a nurse in Thailand. Winner of the 2016 Loyalty Recognition Award, Kathleen used her prize to fund her attendance at the congress.
“Providing palliative care in Thailand is a challenge but one that the palliative care team at Srinagarind Hospital in Khon Kaen have risen to. Under the leadership of Dr Srivieng Pairojkul, they have established a consultative palliative care team at one of the largest tertiary referral hospitals in northeast Thailand. An education program for nurses and doctors, social workers and pharmacists has been running for the past five years but there is no certified course for palliative care under the ministry of health. We also have the challenge of prescribing opioids where there is a culture of fear about their effects, and the need to expand palliative care from the hospital setting to the community. Many of the presentations covered some of these themes; for me they showed that the team in Thailand is not working in isolation but that all around the world other palliative care teams have either met these challenges, or are learning from others and trying to meet them in their own way. By relaying the essence of the presentations I attended to my colleagues, I hope to inspire us all to continue to develop effective responses to the challenges we face.
“All the information and presentations – from the posters to the keynote speakers and oral presentations – helped to inspire me to continue working in palliative care. Hearing about challenges met and overcome, such as the Lucy Project in Colombia presented by Emilio Herrera Molina, which looks at the financing and provision of palliative care. This was a real inspiration and a solid piece of research about developing the connection between costs and the provision of palliative care that is essential for developing palliative care.”
Lee, a physician from Kuantan, Malaysia, was attending his first EAPC World Congress where he enjoyed the chance to meet, and make friends with, many palliative care workers from around the world. He also fulfilled his dream to share his experience in a poster presentation: ‘Experience with Ketamine in Treating Pediatric Oncology Patients with Neuropathic Pain’.
“From this event, I got to know about the development of pediatric palliative care across the world, and the conviction to work harder to improve care in my country; new ideas of research topics that I can conduct or be involved in, and the passion of other palliative workers that has motivated me to continue my journey in this field. I now plan to draw up a development plan for pediatric palliative care in my country, especially community pediatric palliative supports; link to other palliative expertise in order to do collaborative research and education programs; use the experience of others to negotiate with policy-makers and promote pediatric palliative care to colleagues and wider society. I will also feel more confident about practicing evident-based medicine in palliative care.”
Sunita has worked as a physician at Shree Birendra Hospital, Chhauni and Kathmandu, Nepal, for the past 17 years. Palliative care started at the hospital in 2010, along with an oncology ward and clinical services. This was Sunita’s first international palliative care conference.
“In Nepal the concept of palliative care is still new; it is limited to only a few centers and deals mainly with pain and other symptom management. Until now, morphine is the drug for chronic pain management but I learnt about methadone at the congress and will use it in my clinic if it is available in Nepal.
“ My poster: ‘Limitations in Chronic Pain Management and Efficacy of Alternative Modalities during Mega Disaster in an Underdeveloped Nation’ (pictured opposite), was based on pain and palliative care during disasters. Nepal is disaster-prone and many people are disabled due to natural and human-made disasters, as well as the decade-long conflict. I attended a presentation about the inclusion of people with disabilities in palliative care research. Such initiatives would be useful in our situation too. One of the drawbacks in Nepal is the maintenance of databases and research and with my newfound knowledge I want to advance palliative care research in Nepal.”
And a final word from Rita Kabasinskiene, Kaunas, Lithuania:
“Palliative care has an important place in my life. I think it is special – to the patient and to the persons providing it. It is not enough to have the knowledge to work with palliative care patients. We need to have a working example – we need encouragement, support, training, lectures, [the chance to share] experiences, communication, palliative care news and friendship with a smile.
All this is available with an IAHPC Traveling Scholarship.”
(Read a longer report from IAHPC Traveling Scholars from Lithuania here).
Coming up in the August issue of the IAHPC Newsletter: reports and comments from grantees from Africa and Latin America.
To find out more about IAHPC’s Program Support Grants, and our Traveling Scholarships and Traveling Fellowships, please visit our website. Through these programs we support projects and individuals around the world, especially in developing countries in Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia and Latin America.
You can contribute to this program and help palliative care workers attend and participate in congresses and courses by donating to the Traveling Scholarships Campaign in the Global Giving website.