Palliative Care Continuing Education

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The University of Ottawa Institute of Palliative Care (the Institute) in Ottawa, Canada began its palliative care continuing education programs in 1994. Physicians came to the Regional Palliative Care Unit, where they worked with the palliative care team for two weeks. Community nurses and other allied health-care professionals participated in educational sessions on an ad hoc basis. Based on an evaluation of this initial program in1997, the Institute changed its approach and began to deliver a community-based, interdisciplinary palliative care educational program in each of the three regions of its jurisdiction. Two of these regions are rural and one is urban. The evolution of these programs is an on-going process, as changing educational needs must be addressed. Members of the local communities work in a dynamic partnership with the faculty in the planning, implementation and delivery of the programs and are currently actively involved in the evaluation process.

Initially, the goal of the post-1997 programs was to improve participants’ palliative care knowledge and their interdisciplinary teamwork. A series of interdisciplinary workshops, totalling 30 hours of education, were given in each region. While all programs had common components, each also had unique aspects, as the programs responded to local needs. Local groups of champions, who were able to help maintain momentum for planning and delivery of the programs, were identified. Supported and guided by the faculty at the Institute, these interdisciplinary groups are now developing educational projects that are highly responsive to their communities’ needs. The goal of their community education projects (CEPs) is to improve local palliative care systems, expertise and care. Evaluation strategies to assess impact are in place. These CEPs are moving palliative care forward in practical and meaningful ways.

The Institute uses a systematic educational planning strategy, based on a needs assessment from which the objectives of the program are developed. Teaching methods are selected to best meet these objectives. The evaluation strategies include learner satisfaction, but also strategies to assess the impact of the education on the learners’ knowledge and on patient care. This approach encourages the learners to be active and to be involved in the evaluation as well as the planning process. We believe this approach is improving care of the terminally ill in our community.

The Institute is also an academic centre for learning. A residency program for physicians wishing to develop their expertise in palliative care has been in place since 1990, and is now jointly accredited by the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. A Nursing Fellowship was also implemented in 2000, expanding educational opportunities and reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of palliative care.