12 May 2022

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Bridging the gap between practice and education

Maria shares her philosophy on teaching and learning and passion for palliative care

With more than two decades experience in palliative care in a number of different settings, Maria Aparicio is ideally suited and very excited to be a part of the team of Visiting Lecturers at St Christopher’s CARE. Here, Maria shares her philosophy on teaching and learning and passion for palliative care.

Maria Aparicio

Is this your first role with St Christopher’s?

No, I started working at St Christopher’s a few years ago as a Clinical Nurse Specialist working in the community.

What experience do you bring to your new role as Visiting Lecturer at St Christopher’s CARE?

I trained as a nurse in Spain more than 20 years ago before moving to Portugal, not knowing at the time that palliative care would be my path. I worked in the first community palliative care team there, helping develop that. Then I worked as a manager on a palliative care ward in a private hospital. In 2015 I moved to the UK and worked at St John’s Hospice in North London, before moving to St Christopher’s.

What is it that inspires you to work in palliative care and particularly in the community?

I think more than anything it is helping people to achieve their wish to stay at home for their final weeks and months, by relieving their suffering, controlling their symptoms and helping them to live with as much quality of life as possible. It means we can help them to make this difficult time of their lives a bit easier and more meaningful.  My role is not to help them to die, but to help them to live as well as possible until they die.

We cannot relieve all pain, but we can reduce it and bring some light and hope into people’s lives at the end. When a patient dies with me, I feel very honoured. If I achieved (with my team) the aim to make this difficult time more manageable and dignified for the patients and their family, then that is really important.

What will be your focus as Visiting Lecturer and how do you see the role of education in palliative care?

I love education or, as I see it, sharing my passion, knowledge and skills. I feel like I have a duty to do it, to pass on the many years of experience I have in different contexts and countries. Education is not just about learning with your head, especially in palliative care. It is also about learning with your heart and with compassion, I think if you feel passion for what you do then it makes it easier for people to learn, so I hope that some of my passion is infectious.

I am going to be focused mainly on the ECHO programme with care homes, on dementia, and sensitive conversations.

Is there one thing you think that would have benefitted from learning earlier in your career?

I think I would like to have learned more about communication earlier – It’s not something you can find only in books. I continue to learn more about it every day. I was never told about it when I studied nursing and it is one of the most important parts of nursing, if not the most important.

What do you think makes a good educator and what do you hope to bring from your work as a CNS to your lecturing?

I think it’s very important to be a good listener, to understand what people need from you because teaching and learning is a 50-50 collaboration. Having real life experience is also key. I think that continuing my work as a Clinical Nurse Specialist working in the community means I can bring that experience, so that when I am teaching, I can bring real lived experiences to the learning. People learn more from real experiences than they do reading a book. I hope I can help to build a bridge between education and practice. I have a Masters in palliative care and a PhD but I also have experience and practical learning and I believe that, when I share my knowledge, I can inspire people and help them to open their minds to provide better end of life care.

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