OMI Brings Palliative Care Experts to Greece

Sep 19, 2023

For the first time in the history of the Salzburg OMI Palliative Care (ELNEC) seminar series, healthcare professionals from Greece attended the 2022 course and this was repeated in 2023. Throughout both courses, these fellows demonstrated their strong commitment to improve the care of adults and children with serious illnesses within Greece. As with all ELNEC Palliative Care courses, fellows were asked to develop a project to implement within their home settings using the knowledge learned during the seminar. Knowing that education about palliative care is desperately needed in Greece, during the 2022 course, Alexia Gerardi, Henri-Andreas Mullalli, Maria Parara, Elisabeth Patiraki, and Spyridoula Tsaroucha developed a plan to bring the ELNEC Palliative Care curriculum to Greece.

With the help of the Open Medical Institute, these professionals organized a three-day program to be held in Athens. They invited the ELNEC faculty – Betty Ferrell, Carrie L. Cormack, Patrick J. Coyne, Nicoleta Mitrea, and Judith A. Paice – to teach along with local faculty who had been trained in Salzburg. The course was timed to occur right after the 2023 Salzburg seminar, to efficiently support the travel of the international faculty. In addition to the assistance offered by the OMI, the conference was supported by the Galilee Palliative Care Center, the Merimna Pediatric Palliative Home Care Service, and the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. And the original team embraced the new 2023 Salzburg fellows, Foteini Deskou, Maria Karvouna, Sotiria Kyriakidou, and Maria Stefa, including them in the training experience.

Tragedy occurred a few weeks prior to the course with the unexpected death of Spyridoula Tsaroucha. This vibrant young mother was a pediatric palliative care nurse and her death left everyone who knew her devastated. Despite their grief, the team remained committed to this effort and dedicated the course in Spyridoula’s honor. On the day before the course, the local and international faculty attended a moving memorial service to remember and honor Spyridoula on the 40th day after her death.

The course was held September 4 to 6, 2023, in the School of Health Sciences, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens. The first two days of the seminar were taught by the international ELNEC faculty in English and the third day was taught by local ELNEC-trained faculty in Greek. Although all participants were skilled English-speakers, using their native language allowed more effective training in the communication skills that are so essential to palliative care. There were 29 fellows from around Athens and the region in attendance, including nurses and physicians who were working clinically or in education. There were robust discussions during the course regarding barriers to palliative care, including limited availability of essential medications, inadequate staffing, and insufficient training. Despite these challenges, the participants demonstrated commitment to advancing this field. The feedback regarding the course was extremely positive with attendees promising to implement and disseminate the information learned.

The influence of this training in Athens will be long-lasting and illustrates the OMI’s global impact in advancing healthcare education.