Kenya Medical Training College (KTMC) has officially started the long awaited Higher Diploma in Palliative Care Course.This follows comprehensive meetings held by a team of experts from Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA), KMTC and the Nursing Council of Kenya (NCK) for a period of one year to craft documents needed to run the course that started its first module in September 23.With over 27 students already registered and the course underway, the course is aimed at equipping interested health care workers from all over the country with necessary knowledge, skills and attitude to provide comprehensive quality palliative care services and training.

Of these students, 14 are from Medical Training Institutions across the country and 12 are from Level Five (provincial) Hospitals that have integrated palliative care and are training institutions that will provide mentorship and clinical placements to students. The trainees are expected to become trainers as well as service providers in palliative care in their respective institutions.

During a visit to the institution, KEHPCA Executive Director Dr Zipporah Ali said that she was encouraged by the number that has joined the course.

“We are few in palliative care and as we move ahead, we need you to help us champion palliative care in the country.” Dr Ali said.

She added that KEHPCA together with the Ministry of Health has palliative care guidelines scheduled for launching soon that would guide palliative care in the country.

“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 and we are happy this has come to pass.” Dr Ali said.

She said that the process of starting this course was made possible through funding from Princess Diana Memorial Fund, who have also supported tuition fee fro students from Medical Training Colleges (MTCs) across the country. Hospice Care Kenya which is a UK based organization and is a long time supporter of palliative care in the country, has sponsored 11 trainees from the 11 Level 5 (Provincial) Hospitals.

KMTC palliative care lecturer M/s. Stella Rithara said that attendance in the first module of face to face was encouraging.

“The students have actually realized that there is more to taking care of patients in palliative care than their previous health care training.” M/s. Rithara said.

She said that besides the institution having tutors in palliative care, the number is small and being a new course, they have had to use external tutors to help them professionally equip the students with palliative care skills.

M/s. Rithara said that the tutors are required to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or Diploma in Nursing from a recognized institution, must be currently registered/ licensed for registration with the NCK and must possess a valid practice license

Dr Esther Munyoro, one of the lecturers, said that it is important to enhance communication among palliative care practitioners.

“Palliative Care Units help in decongesting hospitals and establishing this network will help us reach out to patients across the country.” Dr Munyoro said.

Mr. Jacob Kibet, a nursing lecturer at  in Kabarnet MTC said that when he learnt about the course, he knew this is what he has been waiting for and grabbed it with both hands.

“I find the course to be interesting especially learning that the patients that we take care of are in much pain that needs management.” Mr. Kibet said.

He appealed for study resources to be availed even at their placement centers to enable them read more in palliative care.

Mrs. Elizabeth Kimeu, a nurse at Coast Provincial General Hospital said that she has experienced a life limiting illness in her life.

“I went through all the stress and developed an interest in helping others undergoing the same through encouragement, most of who were referred to me by those who knew me.” Mrs. Kimeu said.

She said that when the nurse in charge heard about the course, she was the direct pick and was recommended for sponsorship.

Mrs. Kimeu said that technology might be a slight challenge as she is not well versed to the internet but was optimistic to understand it and facilitate her learning when away from class.

Mrs. Victoria Mboya, Nursing Lecturer at Machakos MTC said that she initially thought she was coming to learn about death and dying only.

“I have realized that the patients we take care of on a daily basis actually need palliative care since the course requires us to look at the patient holistically.” Mrs. Mboya said.

She said that the only challenge is that some parts of the course are new concepts but she is willing to practice and gain more courage when attending to patients with life threatening illnesses.

Mrs. Mboya also appealed for study materials to be availed as most books are found abroad but Dr Ali said that the association was trying to acquire study materials for them.

It is only Nairobi Hospice that has been offering the higher diploma in palliative care course and KMTC having introducing this course would help meet the demand.

The course will take 18 months to complete.