Medical residents being trained to heal the sick in Maricopa County will soon learn how to help people die. Hospice of the Valley has received a $276,000 grant from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust to launch a program in palliative medicine for physicians in training.
Palliative care is intended to ease pain and enhance the quality of life for people with serious, usually terminal, illnesses. While hospice provides comfort care for the last six months of life, palliative care can begin much sooner and often involves patients who continue to receive treatment.
Like hospice, palliative medicine is holistic, focusing on patients’ physical, emotional and spiritual needs.
The nonprofit Hospice of the Valley, the state’s largest, will collaborate with Scottsdale’s Mayo Clinic and the Arizona Area Medical Education Consortium to oversee about 110 residents each year at Valley teaching hospitals, including Mayo, Scottsdale Healthcare Osborn and the Banner system.
Residents will accompany hospice physicians, nurses, social workers, chaplains and bereavement counselors on their rounds, in addition to participating in class work and role-playing.
“The current ‘curative’ health care model, which focuses on ‘fixing’ a temporary disease, does not fit our growing aging population,” said Dr. Gillian Hamilton, of Hospice of the Valley and director of the new program. “We are honored to provide this vital education to the next generation of physicians, who will learn to incorporate ‘comfort care’ in all aspects of their practice.”
Palliative medicine is scheduled to become a board-certified subspecialty in September, putting it on par with oncology, cardiology, geriatrics and other areas of internal medicine.
The Valley’s burgeoning palliative care program joins a growing national movement to improve care for patients and their families as they negotiate life-threatening illnesses, training doctors and other caregivers to better understand and treat pain and grapple with end-of-life issues.
More than 1,100 U.S. hospitals now provide palliative care services to their patients.
A partnership between Hospice of the Valley and the Mayo Clinic’s Phoenix campus includes the $2.4 million Minnie and Armond Sherman Hospice Home and a full-time palliative care physician at the hospital and the hospice.