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Palliative Care in Southern India

Overall Rating

9/ 10

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End-of-Life and Palliative Care in Kerala

In April 2015, I participated in CFHI’s “End-of-Life and Palliative Care” program in Trivandrum, Kerala India. This was a four-week program volunteering with Pallium India, a charitable trust founded by Dr. M.R. Rajagopal (known as the “Father of Palliative Care” in India) that provides palliative care to Trivandrum and the surrounding villages and seeks to educate nurses and doctors in the art of palliative care. As part of Pallium’s mission to educate healthcare providers, Dr. Rajagopal and his team provide a few six-week training courses per year that will allow doctors and nurses to become certified in palliative care. My four-week program coincided with the first four weeks of one of these training courses, so I was able to gain valuable, classroom-based education in palliative care as well as clinical experience on the inpatient ward, in pediatric and adult outpatient clinics, and on home visits in the city and multiple surrounding villages.

Palliative care is all about providing patient-centered, holistic care as well as psychosocial and spiritual support for the patient and family. It’s a team effort (doctors, nurses, social workers, and volunteers), and Pallium recognizes this. They have developed a grassroots, community-driven model for delivering palliative care that relies on the generosity of the community for financial support and the commitment of local volunteers as the backbone of their home visit teams. As a fourth-year medical student, I found great value in the classroom instruction in communication, symptom management, bioethics, and end-of-life care. However, I was most touched by my clinical experiences with the patients, especially on the home visits. Getting to step inside someone’s home and observe the home-care team’s interactions with the patients and families was a privilege. Empathizing with a patient’s situation is necessary in palliative care, and there is no better way to do this than to visit a patient in his or her home.

I highly recommend the “End-of-Life and Palliative Care” program to anyone who is interested in palliative care, whether you are a student, doctor, nurse, social worker, or just someone looking to learn more about palliative care and experience the hospitality and beauty of Kerala (also known as “God’s Own Country”). It was a life-changing experience for me, and I am grateful to CFHI and Pallium India for allowing me to take part in the program.