Research Working Group – Updates from 2019

February 2019: Transferring the “Transformational Leadership Program for Palliative Care Nurses” to Greece

By Elisabeth Patiraki – Professor of Nursing and Vice President, Department of Nursing, School of Health Sciences, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece

Elisabeth Patiraki
Elisabeth Patiraki

In this EONS Research Update, I would like to share my enthusiasm about the great success of transferring the innovative “Transformational Leadership Program for Palliative Care Nurses” to Greece. This program was first held in Brasov, Romania, by the HOSPICE “Casa Sperantei”, in partnership with End of Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC), supported by Bristol Meyer Squibb Foundation.

Transferring the program to Greece, was the result of a common effort among the leaders of the Development and Improvement of Nursing Care Delivery Systems Laboratory, of the Nursing Department of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, the Palliative Care Unit “GALILEE”, and the Pediatric Palliative Home Care Service of “Merimna”. As leaders, we feel great responsibility to identify and nurture future leaders in Palliative Care. That’s the main reason which encouraged us to express our motivation for accepting to organise the program in our country and attending the three-day ‘training the trainers’ program (April 2017).

The main goal of this intensive program was the empowerment of palliative care nurses to improve the quality of care for patients with complex, life threatening illness and their families, to enhance their skills on how to advocate on Palliative Care, and to transform them into leaders at clinical, research and management level. The duration of the program was one year (January 2018 to January 2019), consisted of two one-week educational courses, at the beginning and at end of the program (80 hours in total) and was supported by a grant of 10.000 $.

At the end of the two courses, the participants should be able to:

  • describe the importance of leadership in palliative care nursing
  • identify influences - opportunities and challenges in palliative care nursing leadership
  • identify personal-self in the leadership trajectory
  • demonstrate communication skills in addressing conflicts
  • analyse circle of influence and how it applies to leadership development
  • define roles and contributions in expanding / promoting / sustaining palliative care
  • develop management and team leadership capabilities.

Every potential participant had to develop and to implement a project with a primary aim to increase the palliative care awareness in his/her setting or organisation, and more broadly in our country.

Most of the proposed projects were research studies, with a focus on the palliative care needs, problems, and experiences of adult patients with solid or hematological malignancies and their caregivers, during the treatment phase or at the end of life, in different settings; the current knowledge of the health care professionals in the assessment and the management of cancer pain, and the existing barriers; the creation of educational interventions for increasing health care providers’ awareness in palliative care; and other topics (develop a hospital-based supportive care team; palliative care needs in neonatal intensive care unit; exploring the liver cirrhosis patient’s care needs; financial toxicity of cancer disease and care).

During the year, the nurses had to participate in 10 monthly Skype meetings for mentorship. Every single meeting was greeted with eager enthusiasm by them, as they had the opportunity to discuss their concerns and to reflect on the progress of their projects. They also wanted to know they were moving in the “right” direction and had set the appropriate goals for the next steps. Although most of them were behind the timetable, they managed both to deal with the changes and to catch up.

In total, 13 nurses from three big cities in Greece and two from Cyprus, who work with chronically ill patients with a life-threatening, life-limiting illness, were recruited to take part in the training, but due to personal problems and issues with their workplaces (mostly lack of time), three of them had to withdraw their participation.

The assessment of the program’s reports highlighted the great impact that the program had on the nurses. They admitted a significant transformation on a professional, as well as on personal level, as a result of their participation in the leadership program.

Each of the nurses has succeeded in making noteworthy changes in their clinical environment, like communicating their thoughts more effectively and setting specific goals with the other team members. This innovating training program gave them the opportunity, also, for self-reflection and self-awareness, and the capability to change the beliefs, attitudes and behaviors of the public regarding the importance of palliative care.

In the closing celebration ceremony, the newly qualified nurse leaders in palliative care in Greece, gave a promise to move forward. All of us share the responsibility for spreading palliative care philosophy in our country. Palliative care is a universal human right and everyone who needs it deserves to have access to the appropriate services.

Members of the EONS Research Working Group