Why become a champion of the Global Palliative Nursing Network?

Back in June Marie Cooper shared the news about our new Global Palliative Nursing Network. The first event happened on 11 July and the network is going strong. In this blog Heather Richardson outlines a super opportunity to be a Network Champion!

In December 2019 a number of us met in London to work up some ideas for a new global programme of learning for leaders in palliative care from low- and middle-income countries. We envisaged a relatively small group of around 40 non-clinical leaders, meeting in India the following February drawing on the learning of the Institute of Palliative Medicine in Kerala with support from St Christopher’s.

Heather Richardson 2020

Four years later a thriving global fellowship is in place with a current cohort of learners of 200+ and an alumnus of at least 400 people. Many of the individual learners have become major change agents in their local area/region and are making a real difference through innovative service development, education and training, community connections and policy change. They remain in contact with other members of the Fellowship, share stories of success and challenge, contribute to the next Fellowship programme by acting as a mentor or teaching as part of the faculty.

You may be wondering why I am telling a story of participants on the Fellowship when this is all about a new network for nurses. Well, I have learnt so much about how to create sustainable and significant change through the Fellowship and the way it works. Most importantly, I think we could draw on some valuable principles to guide the way we develop our new network.

1. Invest always in the next generation of leaders

Right from the beginning Suresh, Libby and I were looking out for the participants who were interested to continue to participate in the Fellowship as mentors or teachers. They have created new capacity, they bring energy and commitment to the ambitions of the programme and a freshness to the learning that other participants really value. We want to do the same in the network.

Our invitation to you: Come and become a champion to be part of that next generation of leaders

2. Spend time building the capability and confidence of these new leaders right from the start

They are often already very gifted and interested but they may not know how good they are or where some small changes to their approach and practice could increase their impact significantly.  We are keen to invest in our champions by helping them be strong leaders, networkers, mentors and teachers.

Our invitation to you: Consider signing up for that development opportunity as a champion

3. Create a community of which they can be a part

So many of the outstanding pioneers on the Fellowship were professionally lonely and isolated in their efforts. They didn’t get feedback when they did something amazing; they weren’t supported in their efforts to do something really challenging and most of the time they were planning and implementing their ideas without reference to others with comparable experience. Being part of a community that cares can change that and we are keen to create that for the new champions. We don’t need or want everyone to be the same in the community; in fact we welcome difference. We would love this community to be rich and vibrant – drawing in nurses from different regions in the world, different specialties and different contexts of care.

Our invitation to you: Consider joining the community if you enjoy learning with others, supporting their efforts and sharing your own challenges and opportunities

To apply to become a champion email education@stchristophers.org.uk

Click here to join the Global Palliative Nursing Network.

How do doctors and nurses respond to deathbed phenomena?

“You matter because you are you,” St Christopher’s founder Dame Cicely Saunders famously said as she urged her fellow palliative care clinicians to look after the whole person – to take into account all aspects of their care, physical, mental and spiritual.

It’s in that vein that Rachel Cummings is exploring a fascinating subject that touches on the last two of those aspects of care – mental and spiritual.

Rachel, a nurse with previous hospice experience, is spending at least six months in the in-patient unit at St Christopher’s as part of the research for her PhD.

Rachel Cummings Death Bed Phenomena

“I’m looking at what’s sometimes called ‘deathbed phenomena’,” Rachel explains. “A classic example would be when someone who is dying sees a relative who is already dead, perhaps calls out their name and might have a conversation with them. Another example could be someone reporting seeing beautiful lights in the corner of the room or perhaps getting ready for a journey, checking they’ve got their tickets.”

She also lists meaningful coincidences, such as clocks stopping at the time of death, animals sitting on the bed and birds perching on a windowsill at that poignant moment, as further examples.

Rachel’s task is not to investigate the truth or otherwise of these phenomena and coincidences, but to examine clinicians’ response to them.

To do that she is working two or three days a week as a Healthcare Assistant, performing all the usual tasks anyone in that role would, like taking breakfast orders, toileting and washing patients as well as sitting in on the handovers and briefings her nurse and doctor colleagues have at the beginning and end of shifts.

Rachel adds: “What do we as healthcare professionals want to do with these stories? I’m not here to judge the truth of these experiences but see how they affect care and how we circulate these stories and talk to each other about them. It’s in these handovers when I can often observe how clinicians discuss patients’ experiences.”

Patients and professionals are left in no doubt about Rachel’s role as she wears a large ‘Researcher’ badge on her HCA uniform and there are posters and information sheets available around the wards.

In a healthcare environment often dominated by clinical decision making, Rachel says these occurrences require clinicians to look at them through a different lens.

“It is beyond the day to day practice of modern medicine and this project does engage with the important debate around the art and science of nursing and how artistry is an important part of care. These experiences can be really significant. So what do we as clinicians do with them and how do we respond to them both with the patient and amongst ourselves, that’s the question?”

Rachel is nearing the end of the second year of six on her PhD. Following her time at St Christopher’s, she will the conduct a series of formal interviews with clinicians about their responses to these experiences. She will then write her thesis which will publicly available online.

Patients, family members, or professionals who have thoughts, stories and comments or would like to discuss the project with Rachel, are very welcome to contact her via email Rcumm002@gold.ac.uk.

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