Team Supports Seriously Ill Patients

Palliative careThe University of Kansas Health System's palliative care team helps patients achieve their best possible quality of life while facing serious illness or injury.

"We support all aspects of a patient's care – the whole person: mind, body and spirit," said Karin Porter-Williamson, MD, Palliative Medicine director.

Any patient facing a serious illness may benefit from palliative care core principles, which include excellent pain and symptom management; communication between patients, loved ones and care team to ensure a patient-centered plan; treatment options; and course of the patient's illness.

Unlike hospice care given near the end of life, palliative care may be provided even during curative therapies. For example, The University of Kansas Health System is one of the first in the nation to embed palliative care services into the blood and marrow transplant process.

The 14-person team of physicians, nurses, social workers and spiritual care specialists works with patients of every age and stage of illness. They help coordinate care with patients, families and primary medical specialty teams, developing comprehensive plans to enhance quality of life.

The health system also offers three dedicated palliative care suites. They include a kitchen area, family room and sleeping accommodations, providing a homelike atmosphere for patients and families.

Palliative care services are available for hospitalized patients and outpatients in the cancer center through the Allen J. Block Outpatient Cancer Palliative Care Program and in the Congestive Heart Failure Clinic.

The health system also helps train caregivers across Kansas through the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium. Since the program's start locally in 2012, The University of Kansas Health System has trained 366 providers; it is supported by a gift from the Lower family in memory of their sister and daughter, Sandra Stewart.

"All medical providers need to have competency in the core principles of palliative medicine. Skill in this area is fundamental to providing high-quality, patient-centered care," said Porter-Williamson.

"Our specialty team strives to enable our partners to provide this care when issues are straightforward, enabling us to focus on the most complicated situations."