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Palliative Care Initiators course 2024

By Katie Eccles, Clinical Nurse

Katie (Chief Nursing Officer) shares her views on the importance of her doing the course. 

Hospice Africa Uganda is a not-for-profit NGO. Their vision is ‘Palliative Care for all in need in Africa.’ It was founded in 1993, over 30 years ago.

I am studying alongside 40 other clinicians from all over the continent of Africa. We study for three hours a week and meet online as a group every Thursday for 1.5 hours. The subjects covered are, management of pain, children and palliative care (I have never nursed sick children so there is plenty for me to learn), cross cutting issues and how to take a good history and assessing patient’s needs, to name but a few!

One of the goals of the course is to train health care professionals to initiate affordable and culturally appropriate Palliative care services. It is important therefore that I learn how to delivery care that is affordable and meaningful to the patients and their families in Ghana.

In comparison to Africa, the UK have a wealth of resources to help with the delivery of outstanding palliative care. We have a varied choice of medication, pressure relieving mattresses and syringe drivers. Africa on the other hand has limited medication and certainly none of the other equipment that is readily available in hospices across the UK.  

A patient may require oxygen or fan therapy to help with the symptoms of breathlessness. Neither may be available, so in Africa it is recommended to use a rolled-up newspaper to help the patient feel the benefit of air across their face. 

Assessing pain in adults and children is not always easy yet thankfully there are tools available to help. One of the tools used in rural Africa is to use the Jerry can scale. Water is often transported from the village pump and carried back to the home using a Jerry can which is balanced on the head of the carrier.  The clinician can ask the patient on a scale to one to five to describe their pain. One being an empty Jerry can (no pain), three being a half full can (moderate pain) and five being a full can (overwhelming pain). 

I am delighted to be on this course, surrounded by people who are so keen to learn and equally keen to make changes required to enable the delivery of palliative care in their own countries within Africa. The Wi-Fi may occasionally fail us, the storms interrupt the flow yet the quality of teaching from the team at Hospice Africa Uganda never ever fails to deliver!