Palliative care diploma for healthcare professionals in Gaza

Inage above: Students gather to watch the virtual presentation during a teaching session

Midyear 2023 update written by Hannah Ikong of Cairdeas IPCT

What is palliative care? We find that its meaning takes on deeper levels with every training, culture, and crisis. Suha S. Shaa’th, a senior pharmacist and the hospital lead for opiate procurement, explained that “palliative care reinforces the sense of humanity and improves the concept of compassion and empathy, that means we do not deal with patients as numbers.” She also stressed “the importance of letting patients live in dignity and die in peace.”

Suha S. Shaa’th is one of the twenty-six healthcare professionals enrolled in the Professional Palliative Care Diploma programme in the Gaza Strip, Palestine.

Suha S. Shaa’th, Mervat Abdelkarim Hammad and Nour M Almasry during a ward round as they discuss the patient

Since 2022, partners Cairdeas International Palliative Care Trust (Cairdeas IPCT), the Islamic University of Gaza (IUG), and the Turkish-Palestinian Friendship Hospital (TPFH) have worked collectively to create this postgraduate programme. Together, with the support of the University of Edinburgh and Palliative Care in Humanitarian Aid Situations and Emergencies (PallCHASE), these students have covered two semesters of instruction with both local and visiting faculty.

As of this newsletter, both students and faculty are gearing up for their next in person teaching semester, beginning in August 2023. Yet do not be mistaken: instruction and learning do not only happen during the semester. Rather, ongoing, virtual teaching sessions have filled the interim with visiting lecturers such as Dr Nahla Gafer, in addition to student case presentations and group discussions.

In this teaching session, Dr Khamis Elessi is in person, while Dr Mhoira Leng and Dr Nahla Gafer connect over Zoom

Drs Mhoira Leng (Cairdeas IPCT) and Khamis Elessi (IUG) have also been mentoring and supporting the TPFH to develop and implement a palliative care clinical programme. Students have been able to successfully apply what they have learned in the programme to their ward rounds, and they meet as a multi-disciplinary team to discuss patients.

Atef Abu Mousa, a physiotherapist, shares on some of her experiences in the TPFH palliative care clinical programme. “The nature of my work as a physiotherapist is to work within a team,” she told us. “Although I worked for many years, when I involve within palliative care and pain management team, I really recognize the importance of patient care in a multi-disciplinary team.”

Other healthcare professionals also shared on their experiences with palliative care, like Dr Amjad F. Eleiwa, who specialises in pain and palliative care management at TPFH. He related the transformative role of palliative care when he said, “I started to deal with the patient not only as someone in pain, but also as a whole person.”

We will close with a comment from Basel M. Ashour, a psychologist and student in the diploma programme. He observed: “Many people just need us to spend time with them, to communicate well, to be dealt with extra respect and be granted dignity and humanity.”

As partners and faculty of the programme we look forward to the coming semesters of teaching and the continued hospital integration of palliative care. We thank all the students in diploma programme for their implantation of compassionate palliative care; may we all continue to uphold dignity and humanity.

The images above show multidisciplinary teamwork among students and their colleagues and psychologist Basel M Ashour with a patient on a ward round.

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