Background Global access to palliative care is improving but inadequate. In 2011, only 58% of countries had one or more palliative care service. Palliative care expertise and successful service models exist in low-income countries but the scale of demand indicates a role for additional international support to aid service expansion and training. Global health partnerships aim for mutual benefits; research shows that international health volunteering benefits volunteers and employers by developing professional and leadership skills. Health-related mentorship research in higher-income countries recognises wide-ranging benefits to mentors themselves. Less is known regarding the professional and institutional impacts of short-term international mentoring or if being a mentor in a low-income country offers transferable benefits for UK palliative care.
Aim To ascertain the personal and professional impact of being a mentor to a palliative care team based in a low-income country and identify transferable benefits for UK healthcare institutions.
Method UK-employed, palliative care clinicians: four consultants, two specialty trainees, and a nurse, were recruited from an international palliative care initiative incorporating mentorship. Semi-structured telephone interviews were recorded and analysed using interpretive phenomenological analysis.
Results All mentors described positive personal, professional and institutional impacts of international mentorship, whilst acknowledging the need to address challenges and complex emotions. Personal impact stemmed from exploring one’s own value: fulfilling a humanitarian drive, working through challenges and rationalising lived experiences. Professional impacts resulted from experiential learning regarding management, leadership and mentoring; stimulating reflection on own UK practice; and renewing holistic perspective. Perceived institutional impacts occurred through mentors’ professional development influencing both their approach to patient care and supporting colleagues.
Conclusions Being a palliative care mentor in a low-income country provides unique opportunities for personal and professional development benefiting individual clinicians and potentially, UK institutions. Identified benefits outweigh negative impacts. Acceptability of and opportunities for international mentoring and volunteering should be expanded.
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