Collaborative development and research of palliative care

Palliative care is the holistic care of a patient with a life-limiting condition or serious health-related suffering. A multidisciplinary approach and teamwork are central to palliative care. Palliative care takes into account both the patient and their families. (Connor 2020.) The need for palliative care is growing as the population ages and the number of people with one or more chronic conditions increases. It has been predicted that the end-of-lives will be prolonged and more care intensive. This also places a demand on having a sufficient amount of competent staff. In palliative care historically as well as today, skilled nurses play a key role. My clinical experience as a nurse of palliative care is from home-hospital and a hospital ward.

In 2017 a recommendation for the development of palliative care was published by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health (Saarto 2017). Learning about this process sparked my interest in researching palliative care competencies. While writing the dissertation plan, the idea of applying for project funding emerged. In multi-professional collaboration, we sought funding and the EduPal project (https://www.palliatiivisenkoulutuksenkehittaminen.fi/basic-information-of-the-project/) was born. The first work package of the project focused on preliminary studies and information was collected on topics related to palliative care and medical competence and training at a national level. As part of this research, the sub-studies for the dissertation were also produced.

Working on a dissertation in the midst of the national project was an interesting journey. The national activity allowed learning, among other things, about being an advisor for the Ministry of Health and doing interdisciplinary research in a multi-professional team. Being part of national networks was a key for individual development and a great possibility for professional growth. It also enabled access to international networks, which led to initiating European-wide collaboration and cooperation, such as the ERASMUS+ project NurseEduPal@Euro (https://nursedupal.eu/) or joint effort in promoting palliative care education for nurses within the EAPC Task Force (https://www.eapcnet.eu/eapc-groups/task-forces/eapc-innovation-in-nurse-education-taskforce/). Currently, the Kajaani University of Applied Sciences develops competencies for the European Palliative Care Curriculum for undergraduate nurses as well as novel teaching strategies for teachers. It enables the transfer of national experience into international work and vice-versa. The national investment into palliative care education has resulted in making Finland one of the leading countries in this area, which is reflected in 14 publications international and national peer-reviewed research journals. Of these 14 publications, four are included in my dissertation.

The journey with my Ph.D. is about to end, but it has opened many fascinating possibilities. I am looking hopefully into the future of palliative care nursing in Finland as I believe that the work in this field is empowering nurses who work with patients 24/7. If I could make a wish, I would encourage nurses to contribute to research as knowledge is power and evidence-based decisions help to avoid mistakes and develop better healthcare systems able to support patients with palliative care needs at the end-stage of disease.

Minna Hökkä
PhD student, Oulu University
Head of School, Kajaanin University of Applied Sciences

References
Connor S, edit. Global Atlas of Palliative Care, 2nd ed. 2020. Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance and World

Health organization. http://www.thewhpca.org/resources/global-atlas-on-end-of-life-care (2020)

EduPal. Basic information about the project. https://www.palliatiivisenkoulutuksenkehittaminen.fi/basic-information-of-the-project/

Innovation in Nurse Education Task Force. https://www.eapcnet.eu/eapc-groups/task-forces/eapc-innovation-in-nurse-education-taskforce/

Saarto, T & asiantuntijaryhmä. (2017). Providing palliative treatment and end-of-life care. Ministry of Social Affairs and Health. Reports and Memorandums of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Health 2017:44. http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-952-00-3896-0

Palliative Care Core Competencies and novel European matrix for educating bachelor-degree nurses. https://nursedupal.eu/