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Palliative Care Improves Patients’ Quality of Life March 31, 2008

FOR MORE INFORMATION, contact Rebecca Sylvester at 706/828-2394.

Palliative Care Improves Patients’ Quality of Life

(From left) Cathleen Selby, Case Manager; Angela Kelley, RN, Nurse Manager; Lori Greenhill, RN and Suzanne Principi, RN, Palliative Care Coordinator.

AUGUSTA, GA – March 31, 2008 -- Advancements in care have people living much longer with incurable chronic illness. Patients and their families never want to hear the phrase, “there is nothing more we can do.” That is where palliative care comes in.

Palliative care is a lifeline for patients and families struggling with the exhaustion of “curative” treatments and end-of-life decision-making. University Hospital’s new inpatient Palliative Care Unite focuses on improving the quality of life for those with chronic or end-stage illnesses and on providing psychosocial and spiritual support to patients and families during this transitional period. The unit is the only one in Augusta and fills a void in health care in the area.

“Our primary focus is on pain and symptom management,” said PCU Nurse Manager, Angela Kelley, RN, MSN. “We also work with patients and families to establish new goals for care as the focus of treatment shifts from curative intent to support and maintenance of the best quality of life.”

Holistic care involves an interdisciplinary approach: nutrition, rehab, respiratory and pastoral care are integral members of the care team.

“One of the joys of the unit is that all of the nurses have chosen this environment,” Ms. Kelley said. “Patients and families can really benefit from having a staff that is committed to providing the emotional support needed during this difficult time.”

Staff members are often asked to explain the difference between palliative care and hospice. Although similar, they are not the same.

“Palliative care can be started any time someone is diagnosed with a chronic illness. They can still receive active medical treatments that have a positive impact on their disease, and they don’t have to be at the point where they are expected to move to hospice,” Ms. Kelley said.

As medical treatments become less effective and less likely to succeed or improve quality of life, the palliative care team can assist in the transition to a new level of care.

Requests for a palliative care evaluation can be made by any member of the care team, including physicians and family members. Referrals are appropriate for any patient with a chronic, advanced or life-limiting illness and one of the following:

  • Significant pain or symptom management needs
  • Complex spiritual or psychosocial needs
  • Patient and/or family desire comfort care with focus on symptom management
  • Significant caregiver teaching needs to facilitate home/hospice transition.

Palliative care coordinator, Suzanne Principi, RN, MSN, remains available in a consultative role for pain and symptom management for patients who are not appropriate for admission to the PCU.

The palliative care unit also has expanded its capacity to 16 beds and is actively recruiting staff to fill new positions. The staff thanks University Health Care Foundation for its support in providing funds for professional development of the staff and bereavement and grief support materials for patients and families.

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