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May 2011
News For You

Palliative Care Program at NCH Continues to Grow

Palliative Care Services Meet & Greet
Tuesday, May 24
11 am - 1 pm

Stop by the Medical Staff Lounge to meet Dr. Timothy Short and learn more about Palliative Care Services at NCH.

One year ago, Northwest Community Hospital (NCH) entered into an agreement with Midwest Palliative & Hospice CareCenter to provide palliative care services to patients facing serious illness. Since its introduction, the Palliative Care Program at NCH has experienced great success that includes a growing team and an increased number of referrals for palliative care consultations.

"The integration of palliative care at NCH has been widely embraced," says Timothy Short, MD, medical director of the Palliative Care Program at NCH. "It's been a natural partnership between our program, the medical staff, nurses and other clinical support teams."

Dr. Short notes that NCH – doctors included – is truly centered on the community's needs, and that's something he does not take for granted. "There are champions and true believers who support palliative care, from Dr. Jay Cowen in Critical Care and Dr. Malcolm Bilimoria in the ICPHD, to clinical director Karen Colby and oncology nurse specialist Amy Dolce."

It's the philosophy of teamwork that has not only sustained the Palliative Care Program throughout the year, but also has allowed it to grow and reach more patients. A unique expansion of the program is the incorporation of palliative care as part of the treatment plan for surgical patients from the Illinois Center for Pancreatic & Hepatobiliary Diseases (ICPHD). Palliative care education is given before surgery and an automatic consult is generated for each patient post-operatively at bedside in the Hospital.

Dr. Short and palliative care advance practice nurses collaborate with attending physicians throughout the Hospital to deliver an individualized care plan for patients facing a serious or complex illness. Palliative care services are intended to occur simultaneously with treatment that has cure and recovery as its goal, and can be introduced at any stage of a serious illness – not only at diagnosis.

The process begins with a palliative care consult – a referral that any physician can make in CareLink Orders. Dr. Short will meet with the patient and family to review the prognosis and identify ways to manage the day-to-day challenges related to the patient's illness, including physical, psychological, spiritual and practical concerns.

There are two broad categories of patients who can benefit from palliative care. The first of which is the patient who is symptom-burdened regardless of their prognosis. Dr. Short explains that palliative care can support the established treatment care plan with symptom management of pain, dyspnea, nausea, anxiety or depression, and any other symptoms that might produce suffering.

After meeting with the patient and family, Dr. Short will collaborate with the attending doctor and specialists to address the patient's unique needs. To meet these needs, the palliative care team might expand to include an NCH chaplain, social worker, nutritionist or other health care providers.

The second category of patients to consider for palliative care is the patient facing complex medical care decisions. The palliative care team plays the role as advocate or communicator – facilitating difficult conversations with the patient and family.

"Most patients make difficult decisions within the context of their family," says Dr. Short. "A high percentage of our consults are family conferences." Conversations often focus on the patient's comfort and dignity within the framework of the attending doctor's treatment care plan.

Dr. Short continues to work with NCH physicians across a spectrum of medical specialties to ensure any patient who can benefit from palliative care is referred for a consult. "Our goal is to collaborate with doctors to promote quality of life and relief from suffering for their patients."

For more information about the Palliative Care Program at NCH, or to make a referral, call the Palliative Care Services team at 847.467.7423.

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Last Updated 04/10/2009