EUPCA week 2 – Exploring the Unique World of Palliative Care in Poland

The second week of the postgraduate program for emerging leaders in palliative care was conducted in Poland by the Nicolaus Copernicus University of Torun and invited lecturers from other Polish institutions as well as from Germany and Switzerland.

For many of the 20 participating palliative care experts it was their first time in Poland. The course week took place at the Popieluszko Hospice in Bydgoszcz and the Dutkiewicz Hospice in Gdańsk, giving the participants the chance to get to know different hospices and cities in the country.

Poland is one of the “stations” of the European Palliative Care Academy because of its unique history and special development in palliative care. The first hospice in Eastern Europe was established in Krakow in 1983, making Poland a very interesting place in the development of palliative care in Eastern Europe. Due to political change in the early 1980’s it was possible for palliative care to be developed more quickly than in other eastern European countries which did not experience political change until the late 1980’s/ early 1990’s. Additionally, the important role that volunteers play in palliative care in Poland stems from its history. Besides having university student and pupil volunteers for a few years now, the hospice in Gdansk was the first one to include prisoners in hospice work.

The main topic of the week was teamwork in palliative care and included aspects of how to work in a team and deal with the problems that arise. Ethical dilemmas, new dimensions of palliative care and various occupational roles in palliative care were elaborated on during workshops and discussions. The participants also received their next sessions on Project Management, an ongoing module for continuous development where participants are supported and coached in their work on their personal projects. When asked about the week Reverend Dr. Piotr Krakowiak said, “We were very pleased to have the participants with us in Poland and it was a very enjoyable week for all professionals and volunteers involved in EUPCA.”

The session on volunteering in hospice-palliative care was illustrated with testimonies from a few active volunteers, and informal meetings with them during coffee breaks. Preparation for the “Fields of Hope” charity event, involving more than 3000 school volunteers and teachers created a unique background, which illustrated the philosophy of social education on end-of-life care in the local community. Furthermore, with a tour through the hospices the participants were able to get to know local best practices. At the Dutkiewicz Hospice in Gdańsk the participants were introduced to the various methods of palliative care for adults, children and the perinatal hospice. Additionally the participants had a chance to see how Hospice Foundation works.

After the long working days, the participants were able to explore the cities, facilitated by guided tours and dinner with local specialties and drinks. Dinner of fish from the Baltic Sea wrapped up the week in Gdansk, which was a real lesson on the joys and difficulties of teamwork in palliative care.

Authors: Reverend Dr Piotr Krakowiak, Dr Malgorzata Krajnik, Dr Anna Pyszora