On World Cancer Day, the global health NGO, Project HOPE, is highlighting the importance of pediatric palliative care to help young terminally ill patients through their last months, weeks and days alongside their loved ones, as part of a pioneering program with its long-time partner, the Shanghai Children’s Medical Center.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines palliative care as an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families coping with life-threatening illness by preventing and treating pain and assessing a patient’s physical, psychosocial and spiritual needs.
Project HOPE says palliative care and the importance of an interdisciplinary plan of care are relatively new concepts in China and the staff at SCMC has begun to incorporate this type of care with pediatric cancer patients. The Virginia-based global health development organization says health professionals are eager to further develop this expertise, which can serve as a model for the rest of China.
“There are more than 500 new cancer patients admitted to SCMC each year and some children with terminal cancer will experience their last moments of life at the hospital so the need for palliative care throughout the cycle of care is well recognized among health care professionals,” said Lily Hsu, Director of Programs at Project HOPE in Shanghai.
Carma Erickson-Hurt, a Clinical Nurse Specialist who is a certified Advanced Practice Hospice and Palliative Nurse has served as a Project HOPE volunteer nurse in China and around the globe, teaching clinical care and end- of-life nursing skills to hundreds of nurses worldwide.
Mrs. Erickson-Hurt, of North Bend, Oregon, says pediatric palliative care includes the entire family and focuses on quality of life as defined by the individual patient and his/her family. She has trained SCMC nurses to address all issues relating to palliative care including pain management, communication and bereavement and says the principle message must focus on allowing the patient to define the care he/she needs to improve the quality of life during this heart-wrenching time.
“SCMC created a specially-designed room in the hospital where terminally ill patients and their families can spend precious time together to communicate, play and be there for each other with the support of nurses who are sensitive to the family’s unique needs” said Mrs. Erickson-Hurt. She is an Instructor of ELNEC (End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium), and also worked with the Wuhan University HOPE School of Nursing and Project HOPE’s Wuhan Office to conduct Advanced Palliative Care Training to over 90 nurses from local hospitals representing oncology, ICU and rehabilitation departments.
“For the family, there are few experiences which are as difficult to navigate emotionally as the end of life care of a young family member,” Mrs. Erickson-Hurt said.
Social workers play a key role in Project HOPE’s multidisciplinary approach at SCMC, enabling health professionals and family members to be better equipped to provide comfort and support at a unique and difficult time. The role of social worker at SCMC is seen as a model for other children’s hospitals. Project HOPE has been working to improve the health of communities in China for more than 30 years through a strong partnership with the Ministry of Health in addressing needs and advancing health professional training with the support of corporate partners.
SCMC is one of the world’s premier pediatric heart centers, performing lifesaving heart surgery on nearly 3,500 children each year. Project HOPE helped develop the facility, which opened in 1998, and has provided more than $37 million in medical equipment. HOPE continues to support SCMC through at least 16 training programs for professional health care workers in the areas of diabetes, children’s nutrition, HIV/AIDS and nurse training.
About Project HOPE
Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health problems with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE now provides medical training and health education, as well as conducts humanitarian assistance programs in more than 30 countries. Visit our website projecthope.org and follow us on Twitter @projecthopeorg.
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