July 2012

The Joint Commission awards NCH with advanced certification for palliative care

In 2010, Northwest Community Hospital partnered with Midwest Palliative & Hospice CareCenter to establish a multidisciplinary Palliative Care Program, bringing an added level of care to patients and families faced with complex medical conditions. Today, the team of Palliative Care physicians and clinical specialists at NCH are making a positive impact on the patient care experience, and leading healthcare organizations like The Joint Commission and Lance Armstrong Foundation have taken notice.

Last month, the Palliative Care Program reached its milestone goal as The Joint Commission awarded the Hospital with Advanced Certification for Palliative Care. This new certification was established in late 2011 to set standards and acknowledge hospitals that provide comprehensive and holistic palliative care services to patients and families. NCH is the first hospital in Illinois and among the first 10 acute care hospitals in the nation to receive this formal designation.

"Accreditation from The Joint Commission is a significant achievement for the hospital, and it speaks to the important role palliative care serves," says Karen Colby, director of NCH's Palliative Care Program.

The Joint Commission's evaluation process included an on-site visit with clinical leadership at NCH, in addition to a review of the Hospital's model of care and its quality care measures, such as pain management and satisfaction. Among the requirement for certification is that palliative care support and services are available around the clock to patients of any age, from newborns and young children to adults.

The Joint Commission was impressed with NCH's dynamic and highly successful approach to palliative care, according to Tim Short, MD, assistant medical director at Midwest CareCenter and medical director of NCH's Palliative Care Program. He says the Palliative Care Program at NCH is a product of the seamless partnership between the Hospital and Midwest CareCenter.

"There are a lot of medical models for palliative care in the country, but the holistic team approach is necessary to be accredited by The Joint Commission," says Dr. Short. "This certification could not have been achieved without the collaborative efforts of NCH and Midwest CareCenter, specifically the palliative medicine physicians, nurse practitioners and social workers from Midwest Care Center, along with NCH staff and chaplains. They are equal members, and that was an important part of the credentialing process."

The community has weighed in on the value of palliative care, too. In April, NCH was announced as a LIVESTRONG® Community Impact Project award recipient, which was the result of more than 4,000 community votes in support of NCH receiving a $10,000 financial award from the Lance Armstrong Foundation. This was the Hospital's first step in its quest to apply for Advanced Certification for Palliative Care from The Joint Commission.

Dr. Short recognizes that more and more families are looking for an advocate during difficult medical situations, and NCH has responded to the call. He succinctly explains that the role of palliative care is to bring together all of the medical sub-specialty views in an understandable manner that educate and empower the family to make informed decisions.

"It's an overwhelming and complicated process when people quickly fall into a crisis. When there are life-changing decisions at major intersections, what's most important in guiding families is their understanding of the big picture in the context of the family and their goals in life."

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. Patients and families can learn more about palliative care by visiting