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"It is a priority to achieve a law on Palliative Care in Spain so that it becomes a human right for all people.

Dr. Jesús Martín Martín, professor and researcher of the School of Nursing at the University of Navarra, is part of a new candidacy for the presidency of SECPAL.

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Jesús Martín Martín
PHOTO: Manuel Castells
16/12/20 09:00 Laura Juampérez

The professor of the department of Nursing Care for Adult Patients of the School of Nursing of the University of Navarra, Jesús Martín Martín, is part of a new candidacy -#equipoJPLeiva- to preside the board Directive of the Spanish Society of Palliative Care (SECPAL), whose elections, open only to the participation of its members, will take place on February 1 and 2, 2021 virtually.

In this interview the professor, researcher and candidate to be one of the Nursing members of the organization, explains the objectives of his candidacy, led by Juan Pablo Leiva Santos, a physician specializing in Palliative Care at the Hospital de Manacor (Mallorca).

- How would you summarize to your fellow professionals the purpose of SECPAL?
SECPAL represents the point of union of all professionals involved in the care of the sick who have no cure and the accompaniment of their loved ones in our country. Among its objectives are the promotion of the different activities that are carried out nationally in care, training and research in Palliative Care and, fundamentally, in the financial aid and advice to the Administration in order to promote, develop and implement in a scientific framework Palliative Care in Spain.

- What would you say are your 3 main proposals as a candidate for the next elections of this organization?
Firstly, I would stress that we seek to make palliative care a human right for all people in Spain. Unfortunately, in our country more than 50% of the people who need palliative care do not have access to it. In fact, in the latest Atlas of Palliative Care in Europe (2019), whose elaboration has been coordinated by the ATLANTES Program of Institute for Culture and Society (ICS) of the University of Navarra, it is evident that we have suffered a setback in the development of Palliative Care in Spain in the last 8 years, placing us at the tail end of Europe. Therefore, the regulation of a Palliative Care law in our country is a fundamental priority.

In our action plan it is a priority to continue working with the different public institutions so that Palliative Care is recognized as a medical specialization program . In Spain Palliative Medicine is still not recognized as a specialization program, subspecialty or area of skill specific; unlike other countries such as the United Kingdom, Ireland, France, Italy, Portugal and most of Western Europe.

Another aspect core topic in our plan is to work to strengthen partnership with other scientific societies from research and teaching. In parallel, we intend to continue to raise awareness in society. We seek to transmit the many significant life experiences provided by palliative care and the values that all professionals apply in the care and accompaniment of patients and their families.

- What makes the "difference" between your candidacy and the rest?
With all due respect and consideration to the other candidacy, I believe that our team brings together an optimal balance between youth, experience and innovation. We have a team of excellent professionals with both academic and clinical profiles, which facilitates different visions in pursuit of a common goal . In addition, the president of the candidacy,Dr. Juan Pablo Leiva, has a great trajectory in Palliative Care in Europe and Latin America. In addition, he is a pioneer in the development of palliative care in other disciplines such as Nephrology. In my opinion staff and professionally, he is the ideal person to lead SECPAL in these complex times. 

- What would you say are the main challenges facing SECPAL in 2021?
Among the many challenges we face, the right to quality palliative care for all people who require it stands out. Major advances in medicine, together with demographic changes in the population, have led to people surviving longer with advanced oncologic and chronic diseases with a limited life prognosis. However, the status of specialized palliative care resources in our country is precarious. There is great divergence between autonomous communities, which generates inequity in the care provided. To address this status it is necessary to development specialized palliative care resources , the creation of comprehensive palliative care programs that guarantee care for all those who need it in all health and social services; as well as a real and effective coordination of existing health services and a greater training of staff in charge of end-of-life care.

- As a professor at School of Nursing at UNAV, how has your practice professor influenced your commitment to be part of this candidacy?
The status caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about many changes in our lives, both at staff and professionally. At the University, we have had to adapt very quickly to an unprecedented model hybrid teaching . Making the learning of new teaching methodologies compatible with the reorganization of contents, at the same time as being part of this candidacy, in which an important plan of work, organization of the strategic lines and promotion of the same has to be carried out, is demanding a lot of sacrifice and dedication staff. However, important events and ethical debates are taking place at this time around Palliative Care, so I feel privileged to be part of a project that helps to shed light and gives priority to ensuring accessible and universal palliative care.

- Do you think that in the training in Degree of Nursing there is a sufficient weight of the training in Palliative Care?
Recently, it has been seen that only 60% of the Spanish nursing Schools have incorporated this teaching in a mandatory way. In the rest, Palliative Care is part of some other subject or module elective. This shows that nursing students do not have the same opportunities to receive a basic training in palliative care, so there is a need for training that remains to be covered. Its teaching should be mandatory in the training curriculum of our students, so that they learn to know their own attitudes towards death and know that helping patients and their families at the end of life is also part of their future work professional.