Palliative care provision continues to make huge strides in the Kenyan health sector. There are currently approximately 65 public and private hospices and palliative care units across the country. All these institutions are at the forefront of providing palliative care services to patients, their families and surrounding community.

As such there is always need to train and equip more health care workers, social workers, policy makers and administrators with the necessary skills and knowledge to advance palliative care in their various capacities. A three-day initiative of the sort is currently underway in Nyeri County in the central highlands of Kenya. It brings together health care workers from the town and as far as Nanyuki.

The training of trainers has been necessitated by a desire to bridge any existing knowledge gap; a thorough needs assessment and also a bridging of the gap in care provision. The objective of the training is to provide knowledge; change attitude and impart skills so that the trainees of today can become the trainers of tomorrow and with that cycle repeated many times over, hopefully palliative care provision training will need a large percentage of the target audience over time.

David Musyoki, Senior Programs Officer at Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA) kicked off the session with a basic introduction of the design and implementation of a training programme. He spoke of the need for identifying a need and preparing in advance to satisfy it through the appropriate training curriculum. “You will need to come up with a duration and organization plan for the training. Additionally you will need to carry out a performance assessment before you can implement the actual training,” he added.

KEHPCA Programs Director Dr. Asaph Kinyanjui took the group through the crucial aspect of coming up with a budget, emphasizing the need for an accurate and informed budgeting process. “You will need to be as detailed as possible to avoid instances where crucial aspects of your training may be compromised due to poor planning and lack of foresight,” he said.

Johnson Kiarie, a medical social worker based at the Nyeri General Hospital summed up the general feelings of the participants by saying that he appreciates the opportunity provided to him and others to become palliative care trainers on completion of the training. Like all the participants at the training, he has had palliative care provision training and he practices it daily at work. “Now the time has come for me to also gain the knowledge and skills to impart n others and grow this field of palliative care provision,” he added.

Hospice care is one way of providing palliative care. It is the community response to the provision of care. It is commonly used to refer to an organization or programme of care that provides, arranges, coordinates and advises on a wide range of clinical and supportive services for patients with life-limiting and life-threatening conditions and those close to them.

Participants in the Nyeri ToT session offer some form of hospice and palliative care with others also providing children’s palliative care; dealing with patients suffering from life threatening conditions; hospice care; bereavement support; home based care; and in the most unfortunate situations, providing end of life care.

Health care providers must evaluate and alleviate a child’s physical, psychological, and social distress. Effective palliative care requires a broad multidisciplinary approach that includes the family and makes use of available community resources; it can be successfully implemented even if resources are limited. It can be provided in tertiary care facilities, in community health centres and even in homes.

By Mwende Maureen