Palliative care in demand

The sector is emerging as a viable option for students looking for careers in healthcare.

For a concept that has been present in the country for nearly 20 years, palliative care has had little coverage in the past. But with the recent change in the focus of healthcare providers towards a more end-to-end approach, palliative care is increasingly becoming an integral aspect in patient treatment, particularly those suffering from long-term illnesses. Several doctors, nurses, social workers, psychologists and physiotherapists are now taking up palliative care, full-time, while there are others who offer it as a part-time service in addition to their professional duties. Palliative care has seen healthy participation from volunteers, spiritual leaders and social workers, besides medical staff.

But, why is the sector emerging as a viable career opportunity for Indian students looking to choose the field of medicine? For that, let us delve a little deeper and understand the need and scope of palliative care in the country.

Need

Most cancer patients, having been through multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments, are in extreme pain till they die. Seeing their loved ones in such distress also often impacts patients’ family, both psychologically and emotionally.

By identifying, assessing, and treating pain while also addressing mental, physical, spiritual and psychological concerns, palliative care improves the quality of life of patients and their families’ by helping them cope with grave illnesses. Whether an illness is curable or life-threatening, palliative care can be given to patients at any stage and can be administered in tandem with curative therapies to alleviate pain.

Scope

The ever improving standards of medical care have increased the average lifespan of the Indian population. However, this means that there is a shift from acute illnesses to chronic illnesses — nearly 60 percent patients dying annually in the country suffer from prolonged illnesses.

This has, in turn, increased the demand for palliative care services in the country — the number of patients needing it is currently estimated to be around six million annually. Moreover, given the specialisation of skill and professional expertise required to administer palliative care, the industry is expected to grow at approximately 20-25 percent in the near future. This means better remunerations and greater growth prospects for professionals associated with the field.

Where to study

There are several renowned institutes which are now offering specialised courses for those interested in carving out a career in this sector. The Indian Association of Palliative Care conducts courses (Certified & Fellowship) for doctors, nurses and volunteers in several institutes across India. These courses can be availed at Tata Hospital in Mumbai, TIPS in Thiruvananthapuram, MNJIORCC in Hyderabad, BMCHRC in Jaipur and GCRI in Ahmedabad. Additionally, the Medical Council of India recommends a postgraduate course in palliative medicine for interested students.

Healthcare professionals involved in palliative care should be familiar with the needs and wishes of the person he or she is caring for in order to ensure that the patient’s ongoing physical, emotional, practical and spiritual needs are met. The best place to receive care is a place that is equipped to accommodate the needs of the patient along with his/her family.

by Ankit Kumar Gupta (The writer is, Senior Medical Officer, Care24)

Courtesy: The Hindu

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