The second class of trainees from various health care institutions have completed the 1st face-face class of Diploma in Higher Education in Palliative Care training at Kenya Medical Training College.Supported by the Nursing Council of Kenya (NCK), Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) and KMTC, the training aims to equip Kenyan registered nurses with knowledge, attitude and skills on palliative care to enable them manage patients with palliative care needs at their facilities.

Speaking during the final day of the face-face session, KMTC Palliative Care Lecturer Stella Rithara said the students have a two week period to meet with their lecturers after which online learning continues.

“After this session, they will commence their clinical placement at identified sites to put the theory they have learnt into practice,” said Stella

She said that they have identified palliative care units and hospices where they trainees will go for clinical placement before they commence their end of module examinations.

“We have also imparted them with knowledge on how to become Trainer of Trainees (ToT) to enable spread this knowledge to others,” she said.

Mr. Kirimi Shadrack, a lecturer at KMTC who comes into contact with over 700 nursing students every year was one of the students in the session.

He said that seeing patients suffer and palliative being a new concept aimed at alleviating their suffering and making their life more comfortable necessitated his decision to undertake the course.

“When you tell patients to go home because there is nothing much you can do for them, they feel neglected and as a lecturer, I felt that I needed this knowledge to enable me introduce many nursing students to this care to mitigate patients’ suffering,” said Mr. Kirimi.

He added that with palliative care knowledge, there is a lot that can be done to a patient with a life threatening illness instead of focusing on cure alone.

“I feel equipped to impart this knowledge to my students so that once they leave the training, they have the palliative care concept,” said Mr. Kirimi.

Margret Kagendo Ndeke is nurse based at Meri Health Care Centre in Wajir County where cultural beliefs have hindered delivery of palliative care in the North Eastern region.

She said that when a patient is diagnosed with a life threatening illness, they culturally believe that death has come and they go to the village where they suffer till death.

Margret said that it is out of their own effort that they conduct Home Based Care to reach out to chronically ill patients and with the support of Community Health Workers, they are able to offer end of life support.

She says that most patients present with cancer but there are cases of HIV that need end of life care to make their life more comfortable.

“This is an opportunity that has opened my understanding on the care for the terminally ill and I will share this knowledge with others at our health center and county hospital to advocate for a palliative care unit and sensitize the community to own it,” said Margret.

She said that she has learnt a lot to offer to patients with life threatening illnesses other than concentrating on curative interventions only.

Margret said that they see 2-3 patients per month at the health center who need palliative care and this training was a great eye opener.

Mrs. Margret Kimani, a nurse working at Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) radiotherapy department lost her mother to cancer.

“My mother died out of depression with a lot of pain and not knowing her ailment because my brothers used to restrict us from informing her,” said Mrs. Kimani.

Mrs. Kimani said she has seen what patients with terminal illnesses go through and thought this knowledge was necessary to enable her support these patients in management of their pain and other psychosocial needs.

“I have learnt that it is not only physical pain that can be managed through a palliative care giver but aspects of social pain need to be managed to holistically make a patient as comfortable as possible at the end of life,” she said.

From the training, Mrs. Kimani said she has discovered that this support should be extended to the family members including children.

She said that cervical, prostate, breast and liver cancers are common with other patients coming with cancer of the tongue, eye and thyroid.

Bonaya Claudia a Kenyan registered Nurse undertaking the training said patients in Samburu County are discharged to go home once doctors reach the end of curative interventions, a wrong approach to care of the terminally ill.

She said that she plans to start implementing the knowledge acquired and start offering palliative care to the patients they are currently attending to.

“I intend to pass palliative care knowledge to my colleagues at the health centre through the Continuous Medical Education sessions we conduct every Monday,” said Claudia.

The 18month Diploma in Higher Education in Palliative Care has five modules and is on distance learning mode with students having a two week face to face session with their lecturers.