A team of experts in palliative care, nursing and the medical training fraternity are working on the final touches to a palliative care curriculum, soon to be offered by the Kenya Medical Training College (KMTC).

The experts include officers from Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA), Nursing Council of Kenya (NCK) and KMTC.

The process that lead to the conceptualization of the idea of a palliative care course in Kenya started three years ago with KEHPCA training trainers of trainees from 17 institution offering Medical, Nursing, Pharmacy and Dental training.

KEHPCA’s Executive Director Dr Zipporah Ali said that this process was made possible through funding from Princess Diana Memorial Fund, True Colors Trust and African Palliative Care Association (APCA).

“Our team met with the KMTC officials sometime last year to see the possibility in actualizing the development of a palliative care curriculum in an institution of learning.” Dr Ali said.

According to NCK Education Officer, M/s. Mary Nyamboki, a needs assessment for the course indicated that most officers in the health field are not able to help the dying die peacefully even after their medical training.

This, she said, prompted the choice of a module of palliative care education for nursing students, after several suggestions were floated on what type of training would deliver the required skills to be undertaken at the KMTC.

“We are involved in setting standards for this course whereby we are looking at the tool for setting exams for palliative care and the guidelines to approve an institution offering this course.” She said.

She said that though for a start they will have the curriculum running at the KMTC, there is a projection of having the course offered by other training institutions and this will require regulation to approve such institutions to offer palliative care training.

M/s. Nyamboki said that they intend to run the curriculum as a distance learning course with students having several sessions with their tutors at regular intervals.

“The palliative care content is large and we intend to have the syllabus we are developing run for one and a half years.” She said.

The education officer said that the syllabus content aims at building and polishing on what the medical and nursing students know as may be demanded by palliative care needs adding that the clinical placement tool will help in assessing and gauging performance of students in the field.

“We are also developing a tool for setting exams for the course through which students will be examined for certification and afterwards forwarded for registration.” M/s. Nyamboki said.

The Head of Nursing Department at KMTC M/s. Mary Kahiri said that they have identified 25 lecturers to implement the course.

She added that 29 of their 31 campuses across the country are offering nursing and this number offers a substantial ground to kick start the course.

“Palliative care nursing has been missing for long and the demand is too high due to the rising patients with chronic illnesses.” M/s. Kahiri said.

M/s. Kahiri said that the course will run for 18 months with both theory and clinical practice taken into account.

She added that they have identified 11 sites offering palliative care services for clinical placement and more will be added in due course.

“We have the necessary infrastructure to implement the curriculum and we have the full support of the KMTC board. Once we finalize all the tools, the curriculum will go through the KMTC board and finally forwarded to the regulatory board for approval.” She said.

This course, she said, will reduce the palliative care gap that is experienced in the country as qualified nurses would be in a position to offer these services to patients at the point of diagnosis and also at the family level.

M/s. Kahiri said that the process has not been without challenges as they had to draw all plans from scratch, there being no learning institution offering such a course in the country.

“The development of the tools has been challenging but the far we have come, we are positive that we shall succeed.” She said.

She added that there are plans in the near future, once the course takes root, to have training for more trainers to increase the number of lecturers involved in executing the course to reach more and flood the country with palliative care professionals, sentiments that were echoed by M/s. Nyamboki of NCK.

With plans rolling as per schedule, the first intake for the course is intended to take place in September this year.