Volunteering in the Palliative Care Unit at St. Paul’s Hospital in Saskatoon made a significant impression on Amanda Kongawi.
“There was one lady I worked with there; I spent time with her,” said Kongawi, a student at the time. “She told me when I was done my rotation, ‘Thank you so much, you made me feel alive again.’”
Although a number of years have passed since this experience, Kongawi, now a pharmacist at Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert, never forgot how it made her feel. When an opportunity to learn more about palliative care arose, she immediately said, “Yes.”
She was among the staff and physicians from northern Saskatchewan who participated this spring in palliative care training funded by the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health and Health Canada.
Left: Dr. Isa Saidu, a family physician in Shellbrook; Dr. Tamer Banoub, a family physician in Prince Albert; and Amanda Kongawi, a pharmacist at the Victoria Hospital in Prince Albert, were among those who received intermediate and advanced training. Right: Dr. Vipul Parekh, a family physician in Prince Albert, and Dr. Lilanie Cooper, a psychiatrist in Prince Albert, were among the group to receive intermediate and advanced training.
Approximately 180 staff and physicians took part in Pallium Canada Learning Essential Approaches to Palliative Care (LEAP) Core and LEAP Long-term Care training sessions offered in North Battleford, Tisdale, Prince Albert, Nipawin, La Ronge, Lloydminster and Ile-a-la-Crosse from February through April. LEAP Core is for health-care providers (mainly physicians, nurses, pharmacists but also others) whose primary work is not focused on palliative care but who tend to patients with life-threatening and progressive life-limiting illnesses. LEAP Long-term Care is for health care providers, ranging from physicians to care aides, who work in long-term care.
After completing the initial course in Saskatchewan, Kongawi and 12 others received additional intermediate and advanced palliative care training hosted by the Victoria Hospice in Richmond, B.C. in April.
Norma Tyndall, a registered nurse at Nipawin’s Pineview Lodge, was part of this group. She said the diversity of the participants and the wide range of themes covered made for a rich learning experience.
“Palliative care is my passion,” she said. “Sessions on serious illness conversations, pediatric palliative care, young adults living with life limiting conditions, as well as a solid review of pain management theory were all valuable.”
Brett Enns, executive director for the Saskatchewan Health Authority’s Primary Health Care Northeast, said one of the reasons for training such a large group is to create a palliative care steering committee for the North. The committee will develop and drive palliative care policy, procedures and pathways.
First on the agenda will be a one-day working session in June to bring together course participants and palliative care co-ordinators. Participants will determine the group’s vision, value statement and terms of reference which will guide the development of standards and clinical pathways for northern health care providers.
“We are very excited about having an actual team,” Kongawi said. “We want to put all of this good knowledge to use.”
She said in talking with others from across the country, she learned the challenges faced by northern Saskatchewan are not unique. Rural communities, in general, have similar concerns about service access and support for palliative patients.
“This training drove home the point about the need for a good palliative care team for everyone,” she said. Most palliative care is currently provided in the hospital. She is hopeful that the recent palliative training will help expand these supports beyond the acute care setting.