Campus News

February 7, 2011

Report From: Health Sciences

Palliative care is simply good patient care

S. Wright Caughman is executive vice president for health affairs for Emory University, CEO of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, and chairman of Emory Healthcare.

One goal underlies all that our health teams do in the Woodruff Health Sciences Center: to prevent and ease suffering and to offer the best possible quality of life for patients and their families.

One way we help to achieve that goal is by practicing palliative care. Palliative care seeks to improve quality of life and wellness by addressing the physical, psychological, ethical, spiritual, and social needs of patients with serious, life-threatening or chronic illnesses and by providing support to their families and caregivers.

Unlike hospice care, palliative care may be appropriate for patients at any stage of illness – not just end-of-life.

It is often practiced in conjunction with treatment, and it has even been shown to prolong life for some patients facing serious illness.

Emory's palliative care teams include doctors, advanced practice nurses, social workers and chaplains, who work alongside nutritionists, pharmacists and others to help patients and their loved ones cope with the practical burdens of illness.

Our palliative care teams work closely with primary physicians to control pain and relieve symptoms and side effects. They help provide emotional and spiritual support and counseling in making difficult medical decisions.

They help patients navigate a complex health care system and can coordinate home care referrals and assist with identifying future care needs. And they focus their care not only on the patient but also the patient's family and caregivers.

Recognizing that patients who feel better fare better, the Woodruff Health Sciences Center formed the Emory Center for Palliative Care in 2010 and appointed Tammie Quest as interim director.

"Palliative care is the care that we all hope for and expect when we are facing serious illness," says Quest. "The vision of the Emory Center for Palliative Care is to create a distinctive model of palliative care that advances discovery and innovation – all the while with impeccable attention to holistic and compassionate bedside care."

The new center is a multidisciplinary collaboration that taps many of the unique services and expertise of Emory, its affiliates and its community partners to:

•    Foster state-of-the-art science, integrated educational programs and quality health care delivery;

•    Promote the understanding and enhancement of quality of life and end-of-life care; and

•    Create physical, psychological, social, ethical and spiritual healing opportunities for patients, families and communities.

Palliative care affirms life by supporting the patient and family's goals for the future as well as their hopes for peace and dignity throughout the course of illness. Quest says, "Palliative care is simply good patient care."

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