Exploring Careers in Paediatric Palliative Care

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Paediatric palliative care is the medical care of children suffering from serious illnesses or diseases that will limit their lifespan. For children facing such serious and life-threatening medical conditions, paediatric palliative care is often the only constant in a world filled with uncertainties. A career path as a paediatric palliative caregiver offers much-needed hope for critically ill children and rich rewards for you.

Students observing surgery at Iringa Regional in Tanzania For the healthcare professional, the aim of palliative care is to treat, alleviate or help prevent the pain and distressing symptoms of serious illnesses and disabilities throughout the course of disease. Palliative care is not the same as hospice. In palliative care, while the care is being delivered, there is ongoing work being done towards finding a cure for that particular disease or condition as well as other associated conditions. Moreover, during palliative care, patients may also start receiving care from an interdisciplinary team earlier in their illness or disease process. Palliative care takes valuable lessons from hospice and uses those lessons to address physical, emotional and social issues in pursuit of the best possible quality of life for their patients and their families.

Responsibilities of a Paediatric Palliative Caregiver include:

  • Offering advice and support for the child, family and other professionals associated with the care and treatment
  • Providing specific advice on and treatment of pain and symptoms
  • Providing family-centred care in community and hospital settings for children with life-limiting/life threatening illness
  • Co-ordinating care between home, hospital, clinic and liaising with other professionals as appropriate
  • Assisting with care of the child at home or in hospital in the terminal stages of their illness in collaboration with the family and the multidisciplinary team
  • Providing bereavement support for family members and fellow professionals

As an experienced paediatric palliative caregiver put it, they often walk two pathways at the same time. With one pathway they do their best and hope for the best for their patients, while at the same time preparing for the worst. Despite the high emotions and pain, this is a specialty that can be very rich and rewarding with lots of room for creativity and as medicine evolves, children under expert paediatric palliative care are living even longer even with complex care needs.

Child-life specialists promote effective coping through education, play, preparation and self-expression activities. Paediatric palliative care givers may also be supported by other medical professionals delivering complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) such as aromatherapy, massage, acupuncture, music therapy, art and hypnosis

Work places

Paediatric palliative caregivers usually work in hospitals, often in tertiary settings. Today, almost all children’s hospitals have a palliative care program. These professionals also work in hospice settings as well as with children at home with their families.

The palliative care umbrella includes the following medical professionals

  • physicians
  • nurses
  • nurse practitioners
  • child life therapists or specialists
  • social workers
  • chaplains

Academic Requirements

To practice paediatric palliative care you need to pursue education and training in specialty practice, according to your discipline and also have a strong background in child development and family systems.

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