Experiential learning to increase palliative care competence among the Indigenous workforce: an Australian experience

Since 2007, the Program of Experience in the Palliative Approach (PEPA), managed by a National Indigenous Coordinator (NIC) and supported by a national Indigenous Reference Group (IRG), have specifically targeted education opportunities of Indigenous Health Workers (IHWs). The Indigenous component of PEPA includes opportunities for Indigenous health practitioners to develop skills in palliative care by undertaking a supervised clinical placement of up to 5 days within specialist palliative care services. This paper reports on the evaluative findings of an experiential learning programme and the implications for delivery of successful palliative care education. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with PEPA staff and Indigenous PEPA participants. Participants reported that placements increased their confidence to engage in conversations about end-of-life (EOL) care and helped facilitate relationships and ongoing work collaboration with palliative care services. Better engagement occurred when the programme included Indigenous staffing and mentoring was provided. The interviews identified opportunities for programme improvement which included building on existing post-placement and follow up activities. These results show that a culturally respectful learning education program can upskill Indigenous health practitioners in EOL care.

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