October 13, 2016 – Palliative Care Guidelines


Anchor lead:  More evidence is accumulating on the benefits of palliative care, Elizabeth Tracey reports, but most programs aren’t fully staffed.

A fully staffed palliative care team includes a physician, advanced practice nurse, social worker and chaplain, but only about 25% of program nationally meet that standard, a recent report found.  Tom Smith, head of palliative care at Johns Hopkins, reflects on his own practice as an oncologist previous to specializing in this area.

Smith: It’s incredibly hard, you’ve got really sick people, you’re managing their infections, their graft versus host disease,  you’re keeping them alive, and you may not simply have the time, energy or wherewithal to assess their pain, their shortness of breath, their depression, their anxiety, their coping skills, how you’re family is coping, it’s not rocket science that if you have another team whose job it is to do precisely that they’ll do a little bit better at it.  There simply are not enough palliative care providers to go around.   :30

Smith says he’s hopeful that accumulating evidence of the benefits of palliative care will enable more hospitals to be fully staffed.  At Johns Hopkins, I’m Elizabeth Tracey.