Educator of the year award

An Island Hospice teacher of palliative care has won a prestigious international award for her efforts to develop training materials for the subject in Zimbabwe and Namibia.

Franciscah Tsikai
Franciscah Tsikai

Franciscah Ndayiziveyi Tsikai won second prize in the international Educator of the Year Awards at the recent Ian Jack Memorial Prize awards ceremony in London. Tsikai could not travel to London, so the certificate was accepted on her behalf by Coral MacKenzie, who worked for Island Hospice for 14 years.

The award recognises excellence, quality, dedication and innovation in palliative care, paying particular attention to initiative and enterprise towards reducing suffering in patients affected by life threatening illnesses.

Tsikai, who designed the training calendar for all team members and was involved in the curriculum development for palliative training in Namibia, was one of the first African students to acquire a degree in palliative care at the Institute of Hospice and Palliative Care in Africa at Hospice Africa Uganda.

She has received several international awards, including the Barbara Jack award from Makerere University in Uganda, and has been recognised for developing the mentorship and supervision tool to support practice and ensure excellent standards and quality of care for patients in Namibia and Zimbabwe.

The brains behind the ‘Young Carer’ programme, which seeks to improve the quality of life of vulnerable children, some facing HIV, tuberculosis and bereavement, Tsikai told The Zimbabwean that she failed to attend the award ceremony due to financial challenges,

A palliative care practitioner for the past 22 years, she lamented that there are very few palliative care trained professionals in Zimbabwe who can be trained to train others at a higher level.

“Zimbabwe is recognised regionally for being one of the first countries to have a department of palliative care, which was established in 1979. But we are still lagging behind. Uganda started in the 1980s but they have managed to develop and improve the standards, accessibility and quality of palliative care in their country,” she said.

Although training in palliative care is given to undergraduate medical students it is minimal – lasting only eight hours.

“Island Hospice Zimbabwe trains other professionals such as nurses and community caregivers but the training is very short. We offer an introduction to palliative care where we follow up with supervision hoping to impart practical skills and model the kind of care that we would recommend that they (health practitioners) practice,” said Tsikai.

She derives much joy from contributing to the relief of suffering among the sick. “Growing up in Highfield, I would go to Harare Hospital as a young girl to watch nurses go about their duties. I loved just to see them in their neat white uniforms,” she said.

Tsikai spoke of her passion for caring for the sick and said she always aimed to provide high quality care for patients with life threatening illnesses such as cancer, motor neuron disease, HIV/ AIDS, tuberculosis and heart disease.

“Our country is not yet at that level where we can administer pain management medication to the majority of these patients. Some patients present very late for treatment and some cannot afford chemotherapy, hence the need to invest in palliative care,” she said.

She spoke of the importance of training traditional and faith healers because of their important role in society where patients turn to them for help.

“Working in other countries such as Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa taught me the importance of training health care practitioners in palliative care so that we improve the quality of life for patients even though they are facing death,” said Tsikai.

“Visiting a colleague who had been hospitalised in Uganda, we failed to even notify the nurses that the patient needed attention. My sick colleague begged us not to saying that nurses would ill-treat her if we told them that her drip was finished,” she said.

She attributes this appalling state of affairs to the frustration experienced by nurses regionally.

“The numbers of patients that they are taking care of are too many because of HIV prevalence rate in Southern Africa. They are in dire need of training in palliative care,” suggested Tsikai.

Because nurses and health practitioners are not given the necessary skills in dealing with patients facing death, the majority of Africans die painfully.

“It is my wish that Zimbabwe reaches that level where health care practitioners, communities, families and individuals are able to provide palliative care for the sick, so that patients do not die horrible, neglected and painful deaths,” she said.

Post published in: News
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