At the closure of the four day Paediatric Palliative Care (PPC) training organized by Kenya Hospices and Palliative Care Association (KEHPCA), health care workers from 11 Level 5 Hospitals across the country admitted that they had limited knowledge on how to take care of children with life threatening illnesses.

They expressed satisfaction at the knowledge they had gained from the training terming it as a game changer in the way they have been looking at children at their centers of service provision.

“The fears I had in dealing with paediatric patients who need palliative care has reduced because I have gotten knowledge on how to handle them. The training has made me know that it is possible to integrate palliative care into the existing systems in our hospital to improve the quality of life of children,” said Fidelis Mwaniki from Machakos Level 5 Hospital.

Dr Shiundu Jackline from Naivasha County Hospital said, “In our hospital, we are yet to have a paediatric palliative care team. I have learnt of the need to start this programme as there are many groups of children who would benefit from it. I intend to further educate my colleagues on pain management in whichever department as no person, whether child or adult should have to live in pain.”

Dr Valentine Sing’oei from Jaramogi Oginga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) said that she is motivated and empowered to continue working in the oncology unit having identified the gaps and solutions to their challenges. “I have improved on breaking bad news, spirituality in PPC, how to take care of self so as to avoid burnout, how to involve family/guardians and how to communicate with children,” she added.

Dr Linda Ombito from Rift Valley PGH in Nakuru said, “Like most health care workers, I had very little knowledge on paediatric palliative care. I am now equipped with knowledge on the general approach to the terminally ill paediatric patients. I have learnt how to communicate with children about their illness. The training has dispelled myths about pain management in the paediatric age group especially the use of morphine and I have learnt to recognize and categorize patients who require palliative care. I now appreciate the importance of teamwork in PPC.”

Caroline Okwemba from Kakamega Palliative Care Unit said that initially, she used to guess what to do with children but the training has empowered her to break bad news and handle loss, grief and bereavement in children who most times are overlooked.

Stella Kubania from Meru Level 5 Hospital said that she came to the training with fear of handling children due to lack of knowledge and ignorance but she now feels comfortable to help children with palliative care needs at the hospital.

“The rights of children in palliative care are paramount and therefore I will create awareness and become a voice for children with palliative care needs,” added Stella.

From Garissa Provincial General Hospital (PGH), Sahara Mohamed said that her understanding of Pathophysiology of pain and pain assessment among children has greatly improved. She added that with this knowledge, she is now able to handle children with care by being gentle, truthful and sincere for they are innocent and as their rights demand.

Lydia Warui from Nyeri PGH said that she has been working at the palliative care unit but found it difficult to understand what category of children to take in.

“With the training, I clearly know the paediatric cases to enroll in the program. Breaking bad news to children has always been a problem to me but now it has been well taught and I am confident that I can do it. I promise myself that from today I will be a champion of paediatric palliative care,” added Warui.

She expressed concern with prescription of morphine being restricted to doctors only as a setback towards pain management but promised to keep pushing for morphine availability to patients at all times.

KEHPCA’s Special Coordinator for Pain Relief Dr Esther Muinga said that the association had started a conversation about qualified nurses being allowed to prescribe opioids but change of leadership at the Ministry of Health derailed the process the association is doing its best to make this a reality.

Dr Muinga urged the trainees to do their best and not allow restriction of morphine prescription to doctors hold them back from ensuring that pain management at their institutions is on course.

The training was based on International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN)’s program for health care workers.

KEHPCA donated a copy of Children’s Palliative Care in Africa text book by Justin Amery to all trainees to help them have an in-depth understanding of paediatric palliative care in an effort to spread the reach of this care to children in the hospitals represented in the training.

The association appreciates the True Colors Trust for supporting the training alongside all facilitators who took time to impart knowledge to the trainees and ensure they returned to their work stations more informed and passionate about paediatric palliative care.