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When Advanced Illness Strikes

Northwest Community Hospital is Illinois' first hospital accredited by The Joint Commission for palliative care

Physical pain. Family distress. Difficult decisions. These go with the territory when serious illness strikes.

Palliative care can help.

What is palliative care? The word palliative is derived from the Latin, to conceal or to cloak. "We cover symptoms to help alleviate suffering and improve quality of life," says Martha L. Twaddle, MD, chief medical officer for Midwest Palliative & Hospice CareCenter, a partner in Northwest Community Hospital's (NCH's) palliative care program. NCH recently became the first hospital in Illinois and among the first 10 acute care hospitals in the nation to earn accreditation for palliative care by The Joint Commission.

Dr. Twaddle recently talked with YOU about her passion for palliative care.

YOU: Can you explain what palliative care is, and what it is not?

Dr. Twaddle: Palliative care involves a core team of physicians, nurses, social workers and chaplains who help to relieve the stress of serious illness in a variety of ways. Symptom management is an important part of what we do. We also help patients and their families better understand the diagnosis and treatment options available, while helping to identify their need for emotional and spiritual support. Palliative care is not hospice care. It is not about end-of-life care; on the contrary, it's about better overall quality of life.

YOU: Who is eligible for palliative care?

Dr. Twaddle: Patients who typically utilize palliative care have advanced, serious, complex illness. It is for any patient—of any age—with life-altering illness.

YOU: Palliative care seems to be gaining traction. Why is that?

Dr. Twaddle: Traditional healthcare asks, "What's your diagnosis and what's your treatment?" Palliative care asks, "Who are you? What do you value? Who's your family? How do you make decisions together? Now what's your diagnosis and what's your treatment?" Palliative care individualizes care and gives patients and families more control to choose care based on their values. Patients love this.

YOU: Does palliative care have proven benefits?

Dr. Twaddle: When people feel good despite their illness, they do well. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2010 showed that lung cancer patients who had palliative care added early on to their treatment plan, experienced better quality of life, better mood and, for some, a longer life than patients treated with standard oncology care.

YOU: What is the significance of NCH earning accreditation for palliative care?

Dr. Twaddle: Simply offering palliative care is not enough. NCH and Midwest CareCenter strive for the highest standard of care. The Joint Commission is the nation's oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in healthcare. Accreditation in palliative care reflects our commitment to excellence to be our best and do our best.

Albert Lin, MD

Martha Twaddle, MD

Chief Medical Officer for Midwest Palliative & Hospice CareCenter

  • Board-Certified: Hospice and Palliative Medicine
  • Medical School: Indiana University School of Medicine
  • Internship and Residency: Northwestern University Medical School

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Last Updated 04/10/2009