New e-learning course on Children’s Palliative Care in Humanitarian Settings

By Megan Doherty, Alex Daniels & Saloni Phadke
20 July 2022

The International Children’s Palliative Care Network (ICPCN) is excited to launch a new e-learning course on Children’s Palliative Care in Humanitarian Settings. The course was developed in partnership with PallCHASE (Palliative Care in Humanitarian Aid Situations and Emergencies) and is freely available on the ICPCN e-learning platform.

Palliative care has been neglected during humanitarian crises as the imperative to save lives has often meant that the suffering of those who cannot be cured is forgotten. Palliative care can control symptoms and alleviate suffering for children with a wide range of serious illnesses in a humanitarian crisis. To date, there are very few examples of programs providing children’s palliative care in humanitarian crisis situations. Limited PC knowledge and skills among health care providers have been identified as a significant barrier to increasing access to palliative care for children in these settings.

The aim of this online training course is to bridge this knowledge and skills gap by providing an overview of key palliative care practices for clinicians in humanitarian settings, including war and conflict, natural disasters, protracted crises and complex emergencies. This course has been developed with input from healthcare professionals with experience providing palliative care in humanitarian settings, ensuring that the modules reflect the challenging realities of these settings.

Innovative solution
Online training is an innovative solution to address this vast shortage in skilled children’s palliative care providers. Online learning is particularly well suited to humanitarian settings since it can potentially reach healthcare professionals in remote areas providing “just-in-time” education, and ensuring they have access to resources when they encounter a child needing palliative care.

The new ICPCN course is interactive and includes activities and questions to encourage learners to reflect on their own practice and actively engage with the content. Clinical cases are presented throughout the 4 course modules, to contextualise the learning, ensuring that learners connect the content to their own clinical practice. A certificate of completion is issued upon successful completion of final assessments that appear at the end of each module. All courses on the ICPCN site are endorsed by the University of South Wales.

The course’s 4 modules will guide learners through core palliative care topics. During the development phase, the topics for these modules were selected after surveying humanitarian healthcare workers. Currently modules 1 and 2 are available, with modules 3 and 4 expected to be released in the next few months.

Module 1 discusses “What is Children’s Palliative Care” and learners are required to complete this module first, after which they are free to complete the next 3 modules in their personal order of preference.

Module 2 focuses on “End of Life (EOL) Care” for children in humanitarian settings, discussing locations of care, EOL symptom management and communication challenges related to EOL situations.

Module 3 includes training on “Pain and Symptom Management”, providing practice guidance on alternative medications and strategies when certain medications may be difficult to access.

Module 4 provides clinicians with practice tools for “Communication and Family Centred Care”, focusing on specific communication skills such as active listening and responding with empathy.

While the course is aimed at health care providers who care for children in humanitarian settings, the course is open to anyone with an interest in the field. The course is currently only available in English, however there are plans to translate this content into at least 2 additional languages.

This course, and a series of short courses on a range of Children’s Palliative Care topics, is available on the ICPCN e-learning site:  First time visitors to the site will need to create a user profile and password and once logged in, the humanitarian course is listed under English courses. All courses may be accessed using the 3 bars symbol  in the top left corner and selecting ‘Site Home’.

Content for this course was developed and reviewed by Megan Doherty, Erin Das, Danila Luraschi, Pitty Magure Mwagiru and Marianne Philips, with support from Saloni Phadke and Alex Daniels. Members of the PallCHASE Education Working Group provided insights during the early stages of course development. Additional peer review support was provided by Hunter Groninger, Kathryn Richardson and Anna Voeuk.

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