Create an Interdisciplinary System
“We need systems to provide palliative care. We also need to sensitize everyone who works in the hospital to comfort care issues,” says Dr. Pantilat, adding that there also is a need for programs and systems to ensure that patients and families will get the palliative care they need when they leave the hospital. “We need to work together to create a smooth transition from inpatient to outpatient palliative care. And we need to consider how we, as hospitalists, work with patients in the outpatient setting to ensure that someone is there to take care of them and their needs.”
Many of these needs require widespread education and training. “This grant will allow us to develop more robust and innovative educational efforts that engage ways to teach all team members about palliative care,” says Dr. Pantilat. “This will include projects such as using the Web to teach students.”
Expand the Definition
Dr. Pantilat also hopes to help expand the definition of palliative care and help people understand this as a broad concept of providing interdisciplinary care for people with terminal and chronic diseases. “An important point that we hope to emphasize is that palliative care is not just end-of-life care but something designed to improve life for people with illnesses—particularly chronic illnesses—either through the treatment of the diseases or the symptoms. It is an attempt to alleviate physical, emotional, and psychological suffering and promote the best possible quality of life,” he explains.
Helping people get “past the old limiting idea of palliative care” is another key goal. “A lot of palliative care can be provided while people are pursuing curative care,” explains Dr. Pantilat. “This is an important concept to promote.”
The Hospitalist’s Role
As a hospitalist, Dr. Pantilat also hopes to promote the growing recognition of the importance of hospitalists in palliative care programs: “The beautiful thing is that hospitalists are perfectly poised to handle palliative care programs, and with training they can become palliative care providers.”
The endowed chair reflects the importance of hospitalists in the palliative care field. “Hospitalists will be increasingly important in this area, and I hope to take a leadership role,” he says. While he is pleased and honored to have the chair at UCSF, he is confident that his work will have an impact well beyond his own university. “The chair will bring much recognition to our program but also to the field of palliative care in general and the role of hospitalists nationwide.” TH
Joanne Kaldy writes regularly for The Hospitalist.