Leadership and Palliative Care in Asia

October 27th, 2016 in Conference Features

Author: Ayda Nambayan

Affiliation: Training Consultant, The Ruth Foundation, Alabang, Metro Manila, Philippines 


Before the International Conference on Cancer Nursing, I had the privilege to participate in the 1st Asian Leadership Conference of the End of Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) held in Hong Kong, China on September 3, 2016. Twenty seasoned ELNEC trainers from 6 countries participated (Japan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, US and Philippines) in this 1-day workshop. It was an awesome meeting – learning new leadership skills and validating old ones, plus sharing successes and lessons learned in years of providing ELNEC education in their respective countries. In many ways, ELNEC courses had been transformed to fit the needs within the country – translated into local languages and content adapted to concur with the culture and beliefs – all of them making ELNEC a usable tool to educate nurses and other health care providers in palliative care. The work that has been done was phenomenal and in my mind, Asia should have one of the best standards in palliative care nursing practice. Unfortunately, this was not so.

In reality, in this densely populated region of the world, many patients died without the benefit of palliative and end-of-life care. Only 3 Asian countries (Japan, Singapore, Korea) and two Special Administrative RegionofChina(HongKong SAR and TaiwanSAR) had palliative care largely integrated into mainstream health care system. Mainland China, Malaysia and Mongolia had started integration of palliative care while the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand and India had isolated or patchy palliative care services. And then, there are the countries with no known palliative care activities like Afghanistan, Bhutan, North Korea, Laos, and many of the Pacific Island nations (Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance, International Observatory on End of Life Care, 2011). It is interesting to note that most of the nurse leaders presented in this meeting are from the countries with the most development. Did this imply that these nurses were the ones who forged their governments to create provisions so that palliative and end-of-life care coulebecome  a major part of their health care system? Or, was it because that these nurses worked so tirelessly to advocate for palliative and end-of-life care, training their own nursesone group at a timeuntil they made a difference in many lives and got heard by the powers-to-be?  It really does not matter,the important thing was  that these nurses led a significant change not only in their health care systems but also in many lives of dying patients and their families. I was  humbled by the accomplishments of these nurses and yet, they were here in this meeting, looking for ways to work together and share resources in order to further advance the care of the dying and their families.

By the time we all parted ways, these pioneering nurses agreed to work together so that palliative care would be an Asian tradition and not just an experience. What an awesome group!

For more information about the ELNEC training and resources, or if you would like to connect with this group, please contact Pamela Malloy, RN, MN, FPCN, Coordinator and Co-Project Director, ELNEC,    pmalloy@aacn.nche.edu.



ICCN 2018 in Auckland, New Zealand. Save the date!