| One-Minute Clinician

Palliative Care: Not Necessarily What People Think It Is

What I generally hear people say when we go in and introduce ourselves and say we’re part of the palliative care team is “But I’m not dying.” That’s the big confusion. Palliative gets mistaken for hospice. We try to define what it truly is: symptom management and conversation and support for anybody who has a severe disease state. It doesn’t have to be cancer. It can be heart failure, or COPD, or any other myriad of chronic disease states that people can develop that has a symptom burden. It doesn’t have to just be physical symptoms, it is also stress about “As I become more disabled who’s going to take care of my family.” We have social workers on our team who help talk through those things and get plans in place. We help with advance care planning, and making decisions about what the patient wants to do the next time they come into the hospital or what to do right now. We do help transition patients to hospice. We in palliative care feel like it’s just not known enough. People that could benefit from palliative either don’t understand what it is or don’t have access or are afraid to let us in the room and so we’re not able to reach the amount of people we would hope we’d be able to with our current practices. Early palliative care can help with the burdens of chemotherapy and radiation. We’ve reached out to the different oncology offices that also practice at the hospital to ask for 30 minutes of their time to say “Hey, we’re not here to take over, we’re not here to take your patients away but we want to help. We have the gift of time so we can go in and spend an hour with these people that you may only have 15 to 20 minutes with, and we can really talk through a lot of what’s going on with them and help them handle their treatment burden and you may not have time to do that, so let us support you and your patients.” We’ve expanded out to the hospitalist groups and slowly having one-on-one conversations instead of just throwing a banner out there that says “We’re palliative. Everybody consult us.”