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DMH palliative care provides peace of mind

December 18, 2012
The Inter-Mountain

Critically ill patients and their families now have access to special resources to help them make informed decisions about their treatment consistent with their wishes.

Davis Memorial Hospital's Palliative Care Team works with patients and families to provide the best methods to relieve pain and other symptoms; provide care to meet the needs of body, mind and spirit of both the patient and family; support informed decision-making and ensure that patient and family wishes are respected; and, provide dignity and quality of life for the patient and family. Palliative Care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and can be provided together with curative treatment.

Pam Smithson, RN, director of clinical programs and team leader said the Palliative Care Service was implemented earlier in 2012.

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DMH’s Palliative Care Team is spearheaded by Dr. Ronald Mudry and Pam Smithson, RN, director of clinical programs, and supported by members of the medical and nursing staffs and ancillary departments.

"Sometimes people want treatment in order to reach certain milestones, such as birthdays, graduations or anniversaries," Smithson said. "Our goal is to work with the patient and family members to find an appropriate balance that meets the goals and needs of all involved."

One of the major advantages of the Palliative Care Team is that it gives people some control during a difficult period. Team Members - including DMH's social worker, nutritionist, pharmacist, patient advocate, chaplains, case managers, cancer navigator and a variety of clinical staff receive specific training in order to be the patient's support system. They may discuss issues such as:

- Current symptoms and treatments;

- Decisions about life-sustaining and life-extending measures;

- Plans for a changing or worsening condition;

- Ways to make choices about future treatments and situations.

Creation of the Palliative Care Team came as a result of public opinion survey results provided by the Center To Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) saying that 70 percent of the public are not at all knowledgeable about palliative care.

A state-by-state report card on Access to Palliative Care showed that in 2008, hospitals in West Virginia received a B for access to palliative care; that grade dropped to a C based on 2011 data.

The American Hospital Association contacted CEOs in August 2011 providing their site, to support hospitals' and health organizations' efforts to improve access to palliative care. DMH began laying the foundation for the Palliative Care Service in October 2011.

"This is incredibly important information for patients and families dealing with serious and chronic illness and the difficult decisions they face," Smithson said. "I'm proud that Davis Health System is a leader in these situations."

For more information about the program, contact Smithson at 304-637-3337.



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