Empowering patients through palliative care education


When most people hear about the many features and benefits of palliative care, they support it. They just don’t know what to call it, or they confuse it with hospice care. The truth is that anyone with a life-threatening or life-limiting disease can receive palliative care, which focuses on reducing people’s pain and suffering and providing patients and families with an extra layer of support. Something many patients and health care professionals don’t realize is that palliative care can also be combined with curative treatment. With help from a $205,000 grant from the Cambia Health Foundation (formerly The Regence Foundation), Providence Medford Medical Center is working to address misperceptions and educate patients, families and hospital staff about the benefits of palliative care. The hospital is also working to expand its inpatient palliative care program, and has recently started an outpatient palliative care program for people who don’t want or need to be hospitalized, but aren’t a candidate for hospice.

“We chose Providence Medford for this grant because we’ve watched them develop a thoughtful, comprehensive program that goes above and beyond standard hospital palliative care services,” said Peggy Maguire, Cambia Health Foundation board chair. “They’ve hired an experienced palliative care nurse practitioner to run the program, and they’ve expanded to offer outpatient palliative care, which is really where the future of palliative care is.”

With the Cambia Health Foundation grant, Providence will work to increase access to palliative care for patients and their families, offer educational resources about palliative and hospice care to the Rogue Valley community, and encourage physicians to provide more palliative care referrals. The hospital will also use a new patient screening tool to determine when a palliative care consult is appropriate.

“For many patients, palliative care can bridge the gap – often a lengthy one – between hospital and hospice,” explains Providence Palliative Care Coordinator Michael Christensen, ACNP. “It is preferable to identify these patients as early as possible after diagnosis, so they can benefit from these services. In addition, when palliative care accompanies curative care, patients feel better, their depression and anxiety symptoms can be reduced and they may actually live longer.”

Christensen adds, “People in the hospital feel like they lose a lot of control. We help to restore some of that control, empowering patients to choose what treatment they want or don’t want. And when we work with people in their homes they are able to make tough decisions before entering the hospital, easing stress for themselves and their families, and that is our goal.”

In 2010, The Cambia Health Foundation awarded a $20,600 palliative care planning grant to Providence. The foundation has also awarded several other palliative care grants in Southern Oregon, including $92,000 to Choosing Options, Honoring Options, and $261,300 to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center.

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