Evaluating palliative care training in the oncology registrar programme in South Africa
Background. Following a World Health Assembly call in 2014 to strengthen palliative care, the South African (SA) Department of Health approved this strategy as part of the SA National Policy Framework and Strategy on Palliative Care. In 2016, the University of Cape Town, together with the College of Radiation Oncology of SA, identified the need to integrate palliative care (PC) into the oncology curriculum. In collaboration with the Cancer Association of SA, a research project was developed to introduce a 12-module curriculum at five teaching hospitals. The aim of this research was to evaluate the impact of a 1-year PC course within the training programme for specialist oncologists in SA.
Objective. To determine the reaction of oncology registrars and their supervisors to the course to determine changes in knowledge and skills, and to determine the application in oncology practice.
Methods. This study was a mixed-method prospective evaluation of an educational intervention. The educational programme used a blended learning method to train and support registrars (n=32) and facilitators (n=5) across five universities from August 2017 to September 2018. Evaluation feedback was electronically collected to determine the registrars’ reactions to the course materials. Pre and post multiple-choice questions (MCQs) were used to review their knowledge. Focus group discussions (FGDs) were used to explore reactions, change in knowledge and skills and how registrars integrated PC into their daily work.
Results. There was an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the PC course by the oncology registrars and their supervisors. The training was found to be feasible, and the topics addressed appropriate. Concerns previously raised by the College of Radiation Oncology of SA regarding the feasibility and appropriateness of the course and material were found to be unsubstantiated. The poor MCQ results can be ascribed to poor sequencing of the execution of the question. However, the MCQs in modules 7 and 8 (symptom management) demonstrated the most significant change in knowledge and skills (symptom management). The FGDs demonstrated a perceived change in knowledge and skills, especially for communication skills and pain and symptom management. The FGDs also indicated that the registrars’ approach to PC changed in that they were able to integrate the principles of PC into practice, and now saw PC as an essential component of oncology. Lastly, registrars and their supervisors felt that the course addressed topics that formed part of their daily clinical work.
Conclusion. This research supports the view that PC training is an essential component of oncology training in the SA setting. PC forms part of the daily practice of oncologists, and a structured curriculum prepares clinicians to be able to integrate evidence-based PC into the practice of oncology if they receive appropriate training. Supervisors of the oncology training programme and registrars are confident that the training of 12 modules across 1 year is feasible and appropriate.
R Krause, Department of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
J Parkes, Department of Radiation Oncology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
N Hartman, Education Development Unit, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
D Anderson, Department of Radiation Oncology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
L Gwyther, Department of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa
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Date published: 2021-07-21
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