First Rwandan National Palliative Care Training Workshop

For the last three weeks, a multidisciplinary team of Rwandan health providers has been participating in the first-ever, national palliative care training workshop for trainers. It’s one example of the concrete steps the country is taking to realize the national palliative care policy it adopted last year. The 50 workshop participants are doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers, and other health providers who work in four referral hospitals as well as the Kibagabaga provincial hospital and for the IntraHealth-led HIV/AIDS Clinical Services Program. The workshop was organized by Rwanda’s Ministry of Health with IntraHealth’s support.

Using Rwanda’s national palliative care training curriculum and a reference manual developed for health care providers, the workshop teaches participants about:

  • The theoretical principles of pain assessment and management
  • Holistic care, and psychosocial and spiritual support
  • Therapeutic communication
  • Palliative care for children and adults
  • End-of-life care
  • Ethical and legal concerns in palliative care.

The workshop is being led by five trainers, including lecturer Willy Kamya from Mildmay Uganda. Kamya commented, “Having developed and launched a national palliative care policy, Rwanda needs a team of trainers to train other health providers to develop palliative care at all levels. This calls for enhancing palliative care knowledge and skills, and developing health providers’ training abilities to scale up palliative care services."

After this month’s workshops wrap up, IntraHealth’s HIV/AIDS Clinical Services Program will provide ongoing technical and financial support to the five participating hospitals as they offer palliative care training at other hospitals and health centers and in communities. This training of trainers is the first step toward enabling Rwandan health workers to provide patients living with an incurable illness with high-quality, affordable palliative care services by 2020 and to meet these patients’ physical, psychological, social, and spiritual needs.

The Rwandan national policy was one of the first in Africa and is the culmination of many years of work. In 2004, the Rwandan Ministry of Health sent a team to Uganda to learn about the new Ugandan palliative care system. The following year, the Rwandan government and its partners started training health workers in palliative care, and in 2008 began developing the national palliative care policy, protocol, and strategic plan. In 2009, with the support of the Rwandan government, Kibagabaga Hospital opened the country’s first pediatric palliative care center, followed by a palliative care ward for adults in 2010. The national palliative care policy was adopted in 2011.