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Role of Palliative Care Consults in a Hospital

by Viki Kind, End-of-Life Expert
March 30, 2017

Question: I have heard of palliative care consults. What is their role in a hospital?

Answer: A consult in a hospital is when the attending doctor, (the doctor who is in charge of your care), asks other doctors who have specialized knowledge and skills to help take care of you.  Palliative care doctors specialize in managing suffering.   A palliative care physician may be called in to help you manage the pain and nausea you might have with chemotherapy and cancer, or your symptoms from congestive heart failure, or your chronic pain from an injury.  Sometimes, the palliative care team, (nurse, social worker, chaplain, etc.), is called in to help patients and families discuss end-of-life options such as hospice.  I love palliative care physicians.  Besides being experts at managing suffering, they and their teams will be able to spend more time listening to you.  Their goal is to help you live the best life you can in spite of your illness or injury.  Although most hospitals have a palliative care team or at least one palliative care specialist, some still do not.  I hope that over time, every hospital will have these professionals.

Viki Kind is a clinical bioethicist, professional speaker, and hospice volunteer. Her book, The Caregiver’s Path to Compassionate Decision Making: Making Choices For Those Who Can't,” guides families and professionals through the difficult process of advocating for those who can no longer speak for themselves. She has recently launched a DVD that includes a template to create a quality-of-life statement.

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