Advancements in palliative care training and advocacy in Uganda

The Ugandan government’s progressive step towards including positions for palliative care providers  is a commendable move. The  directive for hospitals to allocate space for palliative care services  is another positive move acknowledged by PCAU. However, PCAU underscores that the increasing demand for qualified palliative care nurses, emphasizing the need for more professionals in the field.

To put things into perspective, the Mulago School of Nursing and Midwifery (MSNM) graduates only about 20 Advanced Diploma in Palliative Care Nursing (ADPCN) personnel annually. In 2018, estimates indicated that there were fewer than 200 clinical palliative care practitioners available to care for an estimated 255,000 patients in need.

PCAU is working with the relevant ministries on the integration of the ADPCN program into other training institutions. PCAU has already established a collaboration with the Health Tutors’ College Mulago (HTC Mulago), a health tutor training institution, because an increase of qualified health tutors is necessary to accommodate increasing numbers of ADPCN students. The aim is to create awareness about the ADPCN program and initiate discussions for partnership training sessions for health tutors. This strategic effort has already borne fruit, with a health tutor from HTC Mulago securing sponsorship from Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) for enrollment in the ADPCN course in 2024.

Further amplifying its advocacy efforts, PCAU participated in the National Health Professional’s conference organized by Uganda’s MoES. This engagement aimed to raise awareness about the ADPCN program and foster discussions for partnership training opportunities for health tutors.

The 12th graduation ceremony at MSNM in October of 2023 witnessed the conferring of diplomas upon 548 nurses and midwives, including 17 ADPCN graduates. The State Minister for Higher Education, Hon. Dr. John Chrysostom Muyingo, officiated over the ceremony and emphasized the importance of graduates pursuing further studies, particularly in specialized fields like palliative care nursing. He urged health workers to take specialist courses to address the rising burden of non-communicable diseases and provide essential support to the increasing population of older persons.

During the ceremony, the challenge of a limited number of medical and midwifery tutors was highlighted, contributing in part to also the lower numbers of ADPCN graduates. The Commissioner of Health Training Institutions, Hajati Dr. Safinah Kisu Musene, expressed the need for an increase in qualified human resources at MSNM to enhance the quality of nursing care training – emphasizing the importance of fulfilling MSNM’s mandate to train health workers for preventive, rehabilitative and curative care in Ugandan communities.

At same ceremony, PCAU received recognition for its collaborative efforts with the MoES through the office of the Commissioner of Health Training Institutions in supporting palliative care training in the country.

PCAU celebrates these achievements and continues to look forward to the continued collaboration to enhance palliative care services across Uganda.