At its upcoming national conference in June, the Supportive Care Coalition, an organization dedicated to advancing excellence in palliative care, will award Mercy a 2013 Quality Award for the strides we have made to improve the delivery of palliative medicine in a diverse care setting.
Dr. Ron Crock, MD, medical director of Mercy Hospice and Palliative Care, calls our medical center's program unique among community hospitals, which traditionally cannot offer a dedicated palliative care team.
"At Mercy, our existing staff has incorporated palliative medicine into the scope of our other duties, and our success can be attributed mainly to training, team work and communication," he says. "Our group was determined to make palliative medicine work because of the good outcomes for patients."
Representatives from a range of departments – including discharge planning, social work, pastoral care, hospice, home care, cancer services and others – meet on weekly basis to share information about patient care and needs. They also make detailed notes in electronic medical records to keep team members updated.
Palliative Medicine Differs from Hospice Care
Palliative medicine focuses on pain and symptom control for patients with a serious health condition, including chronic and curable illnesses. Although there are many similarities between hospice and palliative medicine, Dr. Crock says the main difference between the two lies in the aggressiveness of treatment and life expectancy of the patient. When a patient is expected to live six months or less, hospice is appropriate. Conversely, patients eligible for palliative medicine have an indefinite life expectancy.
At Mercy, the palliative medicine team works primarily in a consulting role, coordinating care and acting as a patient advocate. Crock says, "We are called for a variety of reasons, everything from applying for some kind of social or financial support to 'Please help me because I'm in pain.'"
Depending on the need, the appropriate team member will meet with patients, families and other health-care providers to examine options and help determine a course of action.
Photo Caption: Members of the Mercy Medical Center palliative care team in Canton, Ohio, who will be honored with a Supportive Care Coalition Quality Award are, front row from left, nurse navigator Nicole Haines, and social workers Edda Sedon and Luane Imodorf; and back row from left, medical director Dr. Ronald Crock, nurse navigator Dianna Ellison, pastoral care staffer Chaplain Travis Gingerich and nurse practitioner Stephanie Spicer. Not pictured is Sister Kathleen O'Donnell, HM, BBC, chaplain.