Each year, Global Partners in Care and the African Palliative Care Association (APCA) offer education scholarships to enhance palliative care knowledge and skills of nurses and social workers in Africa. This year a total of 12 scholarships were awarded – nine to nurses and three to social workers; among the cohort are a nurse who works in church as minister to the sick, the in-charge of the only palliative care unit in her district, a professional social worker and a music therapist. This year’s recipients are from Cameroon, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda and their courses of study range from a Diploma of Higher Education in Palliative Care to Master of Science in Palliative Care. The scholarship beneficiaries will pursue their studies at various institutions within Africa which include Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care at Makerere University in Uganda, Nairobi Hospice in Kenya, University of Cape Town in South Africa and Kamuzu University of Health Sciences in Malawi.
Rose, one of this year’s recipients, is a nurse and counselor pursuing a Higher Diploma in Palliative Care at Nairobi Hospice in Kenya. She hopes to “start the palliative care approach in the comprehensive care clinic where I work and initiate a palliative care team in the hospital.” She plans to pursue an advanced degree in palliative care in the future. Anna, another recipient, is a nurse midwife from Uganda who has worked in palliative care provision and education – she is currently a tutor at a nursing school and is pursuing a Master of Science in Palliative Care. In an introductory call with this year’s recipients, Anna expressed her “deep appreciation for being part of this team and for being awarded the scholarship.”
Previous recipients have expressed the importance of these scholarships in helping them complete their education, allowing them to focus on their studies rather than school fees. In 2021, a team of five medical and social workers from Mt. Meru Hospital in Tanzania were granted scholarships to complete a certificate course, Palliative Care for Health and Social Welfare Professionals. The team has started sharing their new knowledge and skills with other palliative care professionals and are now training other health workers in the hospital.
Social workers and nurses are an essential component of providing quality palliative care services to those with life-limiting conditions. In Africa, the demand for those with specialized palliative care training is high as countries work to integrate palliative care policies and services into their health systems. There is a need to strengthen the presence of social workers in palliative care, as they play a critical role in meeting psychological and social needs of patients and their families. Nurses are frontline workers across the continent, and they have a significant role in delivering person-centered palliative care, often in addition to their primary nursing appointment.
The African Palliative Care Education Scholarship Fund for Nurses and Social Workers was set up in 2011 with generous donations from the National Association of Social Workers in honor of Dr. Bernice Catherine Harper and from an anonymous donor in honor of the palliative care service of Kath Defilippi, a nurse from South Africa.
Over the course of the program, APCA and GPIC have awarded 76 scholarships to nurses and social workers from 13 countries (Cameroon, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). APCA and GPIC are working to extend the reach of the scholarships to more countries, especially to central and west African and francophone countries.
The fact that I will get a Bachelor of Science degree in palliative care from one of the best universities in Africa, Makerere, is great honor and will enable me to continue with a master’s, hence growing professionally. I am really thankful to APCA for their … role in this scholarship. I really appreciate their good communication and efforts to ensure palliative care service is spread like bush fire across Africa.