Improving Quality of Life – Palliative Care Service

by Kim Sloop, BSN, RN, OCN
Clinical Development Coordinator Oncology & Palliative Care Nurse

America is aging. Baby boomers are beginning to retire. Healthcare is on the brink of a sharp escalation in the chronic disease patient population.  Advances in medicine have enabled us to prolong life beyond what previous generations knew.  Faced with a serious chronic or life-threatening medical condition, many people may not feel prepared or feel having adequate information about treatment options. To respond to this community need, the Palliative Care program was implemented at Catawba Valley Medical Center in April 1, 2012.

Palliative_Care_Team_PicPalliative Care focuses on symptom management and quality of life of a patient enduring a chronic illness or life limiting disease.  The Palliative Care program addresses the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of patients and offers support through a multidisciplinary approach.  The program is directed by Melanie Lutz RN, BSN, OCN and team members consist of a board certified Palliative Care physician, nurse practitioner, nurses, case manager or social worker, pharmacist, and dietician.

The Palliative Care service is available during the weekdays from 8 am – 5 pm, and lengthy family meetings are held by Dr. Kenton Sanders and Kim Sloop RN, BSN, OCN to discuss plan of care options and assist with decision making for the goal to achieve the best quality of life for the patient.  Prior to program implementation in 2012, end of life education was completed by various nursing staff to increase awareness of palliative care and end of life care.  A Palliative Care consult can be generated by a practitioner; however, anyone including staff, family member, or visitor can consult the Palliative Care nurse. A consult is entered for the Palliative Care nurse to complete a screening tool on the patient. Then the attending physician is notified regarding the patient’s qualifying criteria for Palliative Care, and the physician can accept or decline the consult. Palliative Care consults havePall_Care_Pic_1 been ordered by numerous specialties including: hospitalists, general surgery, oncology, orthopedics, cardiology, pulmonology, neurology, and emergency.   Since the inception of the service, a total of 178 consults were generated from April 1, 2012 through December 31, 2012.

All three levels of the Catawba Valley Medical Center Professional Nursing Practice Model are included in the Palliative Care Program.  The Science of Nursing is utilized through multidisciplinary communication and expertise. The Art of Nursing is exemplified by nursing autonomy to consult the Palliative Care nurse in efforts to provide the patient with resources and support from the Palliative Care Team.  The Patient Perspective and their quality of life is the main goal of Palliative Care.  Focusing on symptom management, emotional distress, and offering family support contributes to the holistic needs of the patient and family. Families have been most appreciative by the time Palliative Care has spent with them and information provided to help them make an informed decision regarding treatment choices for their loved one.