Leading the way in European palliative care: A student’s view

Niamh Finucane, Senior Social Worker, St Francis Hospice, Dublin, Ireland, is among the first cohort of students on an innovative palliative care leadership course. She explains what the course means to her.

I was delighted when I was accepted on to the Leadership Course being offered by the European Palliative Care Academy (EUPCA) and supported by the Robert Bosch Foundation. The programme looked exciting, being offered across four academic centres in Europe over 18 months. The Irish Hospice Foundation supported my attendance on the course by providing a travel grant.

The first week took place in Cologne in Germany in September 2013, where I met the 19 other participants from 13 other countries in Europe. Everybody had a wealth of experience in palliative care. The enthusiasm of the group was really energising as each person spoke of their vision for palliative care developments in their agency or country. During the week, we received training and tutorials on Project Management and Personal Development. We visited the Centre for Palliative Care at the University Hospital of Cologne and also Rondorf Hospice. It was great to be able to get the opportunity to experience how palliative care services are set up in Germany and visit sites of best practice.


Niamh Finucane, Senior Social Worker, St Francis Hospice, Dublin, Ireland

Each participant had to identify a project we would lead to bring about a change of practice in our agency or country that we would pursue over the duration of the course. By the end of the week in Cologne, I went home with lots of ideas buzzing in my head and excited about the possibilities for my project. Using the skills learnt and talking to colleagues, I clarified the focus of my project. I will review the bereavement services in St Francis Hospice, Dublin where I work and develop a strategic development plan for the future bereavement services offered by the hospice. This is particularly exciting as our services are expanding with the opening of an inpatient unit on a second site at the end of 2014. As part of the course I have the opportunity to go to another institution for a week of observation. As a clinician, it is great to have the possibility of seeing how other services have developed over time and the different ranges of services they offer.

There is great shared learning on the course, with plenty of opportunities to interact with the other participants. Palliative care is at a different stage of development in each of our countries. Some participants are setting up new hospice services as palliative care is still a developing specialty in their country. Other participants are focusing on service improvements or gaps in knowledge. I am really looking forward to our next week together in Bydgoszcz in Poland at the end of March 2014.