A woman in her sixties was suffering from severe degenerative bone disease and had undergone several surgeries on her back and shoulders. With no family living nearby to help, she felt anxiety, loneliness, and a sense of isolation. Wanting the best for his patient, this woman’s primary care physician asked Crossroads Hospice & Palliative Care to help coordinate a treatment program to manage her pain and address her emotional issues.
With several months of supportive, expertly-coordinated care between Crossroads palliative care specialists and her physician, the patient says she has been able to reach a level of independence in her daily life activities she’d never imagined. She has now set a personal goal to return to work as a nurse practitioner. Her doctor calls this nothing short of a “triumph.”
There was a time when this patient and others like her may not have readily achieved such a sense of well-being and relief from their symptoms. Palliative and hospice care are options that are often overlooked or misunderstood. But these days there is growing recognition in the medical community of the value of this specialty care and its power to change lives.
In recognition of Doctor’s Day, we at Crossroads pause to honor physicians for their dedication to their patients and the vision to help them live their best lives.
A New Perspective for Doctors
Palliative and hospice specialists are trained to view their patients holistically – to consider not just physical symptoms, but emotional and spiritual issues as well. By putting a patient’s wishes firmly at the center of all decision making, their approach addresses emotional issues as urgently as medical ones, with positive effects that can be life-changing.
Palliative and hospice care is “just the opposite” of the traditional way of looking for the next symptom to cure or the next treatment to give, says Dr. Walter George, Crossroads’ Senior Vice President for Physician Education and Services.
“Holistic, end-of-life care is wholly intended to improve quality of life. It is very different from the acute care model we’ve all been trained in. Understanding the difference is important. The sooner a doctor can do that for a patient – bring all the benefits of this philosophical approach – the better.”
Understanding this difference and coordination of care are key, Dr. George says. Medical training hasn’t always emphasized end-of-life care and physicians may become so focused on making a patient better that he or she may miss an overall pattern of declining health. That’s where partnership with hospice and palliative care specialists becomes so important.
The Field is “Exploding”
The rapid growth of hospice and palliative medicine in recent years signals a developing awareness and appreciation of the specialty among medical professionals.
The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine began credentialing physicians in 1997. Today, there are more than 6,400 board-certified hospice and palliative medicine specialists, according to the American Medical Association. And the number is growing – particularly among younger physicians.
Recent reports show that most medical schools in the United States have built end-of-life care into their curricula, and many now offer clinical rotations in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and hospices. In fact, Crossroads in Cleveland is a preceptor site for the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. First- and second-year medical students do a two-week clinical rotation with the Crossroads palliative team visiting patients and participating in coordinated care discussions with attending physicians.
“Palliative is a field in its infancy and it is exploding,” Dr. George says. “Young people are coming out of medical school and pouring into the field. They are generating an awareness and an understanding that previous generations of practitioners never had.
“The specialty is growing, and I think this is a giant leap forward for all of us in caring for patients.”
For more information on why healthcare professionals choose hospice, please visit our website or give us a call today at 1-888-564-3405.
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