Providence receives grant to expand Palliative Care Program

August 24, 2012
Providence launches palliative care initiative
Effort supported by $205,000 grant from Cambia Health Foundation

When most people hear about the many features and benefits of palliative care, they support it. They just don’t know what to call it, or they confuse it with hospice care. The truth is that anyone with a life-threatening or life-limiting disease can receive palliative care, which focuses on reducing people’s pain and suffering and providing patients and families with an extra layer of support.

Something many patients and health care professionals don’t realize is that palliative care can also be combined with curative treatment.

With help from the $205,000 grant from the Cambia Health Foundation (formerly The Regence Foundation), Providence Medford Medical Center is continuing to build its palliative care team. The interdisciplinary team is led by Medical Director Susan Kohler, M.D., of Hematology Oncology Associates, and coordinated by Michael Christensen, ACNP, palliative care nurse practitioner. Christensen joined Providence from Stanford University Medical Center, with more than 15 years of experience in hospice and palliative care. He oversees the entire program – inpatient to outpatient palliative care – to ensure a cohesive approach.

“We chose Providence Medford for this grant because we’ve watched them develop a thoughtful, comprehensive program that goes above and beyond standard hospital palliative care services,” says Peggy Maguire, Cambia Health Foundation board chair. “They’ve hired an experienced palliative care nurse practitioner to run the program, and they offer outpatient palliative care, which is really where the future of palliative care is.”

Case managers, nursing teams or physicians on each of Providence’s inpatient units screen for possible palliative care patients based on verifiable medical criteria. Inpatient and outpatient referrals also come from hospitalists, intensivists, primary care providers, and community physicians. After the palliative care nurse practitioner makes an initial evaluation, the palliative care team sees the patient, whether at home or in the hospital. Patients are continually assessed for symptom management, and the treatment plan can evolve over time.

“Our screening process found that 20 percent of the inpatient population was appropriate for palliative care,” Christensen explains. “Palliative care bridges the gap – often a lengthy one – between hospital and hospice. It is preferable to identify these patients as early as possible after diagnosis, so they can benefit from these services. When palliative care accompanies curative care, patients feel better, their depression and anxiety is reduced and they may actually live longer.”

To make a referral to Providence Palliative Care, contact Michael Christensen, ACNP, at 541-732-6274.