Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Training in palliative care given a big boost

  • April 26, 2020

Pallium Canada has teamed up with the Canadian Medical Association to help health care workers gain accelerated and enhanced palliative care skills.

Six learning modules have been made available online which will specialize in the unique issues around palliative care and COVID-19.

These LEAP (Learning Essential Approaches to Palliative Care) modules and more resources will provide health care teams and workers an introduction to palliative care and skills required during the pandemic response. The CMA has committed $500,000 to increased training, in the near term and beyond.

“Under normal circumstances, a patient’s palliative care needs would be addressed by an inter-professional palliative care team made up of physicians, nurses, social workers and spiritual care workers,” said Dr. Sandy Buchman, CMA president.

“With the current strain on our health care system, we need to make sure our health care workers can gain this knowledge to better support their patients during COVID-19 and beyond.”

The modules are self-directed and can be completed at the health worker’s own pace. They’ve been purposely designed to be easily navigated as there’s an understanding the system and its workers are overwhelmed by the pandemic.

“These are practical and pragmatic skills,” said Pallium Canada CEO Jeffrey Moat.

“Resources are strained and we need all to have these skills in such extraordinary circumstances.”

The available modules, which are being offered for free until June 30, will take a somewhat holistic approach to palliative care, the “areas most critical and vital” in dealing with patients in need of palliative care, he said.

They will examine advance care planning, taking ownership, decision-making, managing dyspnea, palliative sedation and the last days and hours.

This whole new reality brought to the health system by COVID-19 has been a “massive wake-up call” that has uncovered many weaknesses within the system, said Moat. It’s hoped this can bring forward not only more conversations about palliative care, which proponents have been hearing for decades, but action as well.

The need for palliative care has been known for years, yet only about 30 per cent of Canadians have access to quality palliative care. The 2017 federal budget set aside $6-10 billion for improved palliative care, though little has been spent since then.

“That’s the type of conversations we’re having with the Health Canada’s” and other partners, said Moat, who hopes this crisis will be a “springboard” to more palliative care options.

“We know it’s the case, people don’t receive proper palliative care,” he said.

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