A hospice doctor is a key member of the hospice team that cares for each hospice patient and oversees the hospice plan of care. The hospice doctor can also work closely with the patient’s personal physician.
Hospice physicians help the team maximize patients’ comfort and ability to function as the person and family cope with a terminal illness. Such care includes helping patients/families identify and address their goals — including symptom relief, counseling, spiritual comfort, and other supports that will enhance their quality of life.
At Samaritan, our hospice physicians are experienced specialists who are board-certified in hospice and palliative medicine, as well as such specialties as family practice, internal medicine, and geriatrics. They have expertise in pain and symptom management — the hallmarks of hospice care.
In addition, Samaritan Hospice doctors have excellent communication and conflict-resolution skills to help patients, families and staff deal with the difficult issues and decision that can arise when someone is terminally ill. They are well-versed in current principles of care quality and ethical issues in hospice care.
“Palliative and hospice care are not about ‘giving up,’ but rather getting the right help at the right time through the course of chronic illness and at the end of life.” – Stephen Goldfine, MD, Chief Medical Officer
A hospice doctor approves patients for hospice admission, oversees patients’ hospice care teams, and re-certifies patients for continued hospice care. These physicians are available to visit patients as needed, and to consult with patients’ personal doctors and other physicians in the community.
They can see a patient at home, in a long-term care facility, or at an inpatient hospice center.
As Samaritan, our hospice physicians:
• Provide medical consultation to all hospice personnel.
• Participate in hospice team meetings to discuss care of individual patients.
• Provide comprehensive medical consultations to the hospice staff, including the most current knowledge in hospice care.
• Communicate with patients’ personal physicians as needed.
• Provide education and training to hospice personnel, volunteers, patients, and families, as needed.
• Understand relevant rules and regulations of state and federal entities, including the Medicare hospice benefit.
• Participate on Samaritan’s Ethics Committee, where they provide extensive knowledge of medical ethics to assist with complex care choices and related issues.
• Participate in Samaritan’s quality assurance programs, including performance improvement and customer/employee satisfaction programs.
• Participate on Samaritan’s Professional Advisory Committee, which establishes and reviews the organization’s policies and advises Samaritan on professional issues, among other duties.
• Serve as a liaison between Samaritan and the medical community.
“I understand the quality of my patient’s life will be defined by them or their families, and however we can work to meet that goal means I did my job well.”
– Sara Pagliaro, DO, Associate Director of Palliative Medicine
Q: Who provides hospice care?
A: Hospice care is provided by an interdisciplinary team that includes a hospice physician, nurses, a social worker, certified home health aides, spiritual support counselors, family support volunteers, and grief counselors. Based on the patient’s needs, the team may also include a dietitian, pharmacist, and physical, occupational, and/or speech therapist; a wound care specialist; and complementary service providers such as massage, music, pet, and aroma therapists.
Q: What will my hospice doctor do that’s different from my other doctors?
A: Your other physicians focus on your overall health, or on treating your illness or condition. Hospice doctors concentrate on enhancing your comfort — reducing pain and suffering, improving your quality of life, and helping you and your family cope with the challenges of your illness. They provide a holistic approach to address your physical, emotional, practical, social, and spiritual needs.
Hospice physicians are sympathetic to people’s fears and uncertainty near the end of life. They understand that each patient and family has different needs, wishes, and priorities – which they consider when developing your care plan.
Q: Shouldn’t all my doctors try to help me feel better and improve my quality of life?
A: Yes, certainly. But hospice doctors have additional training and expertise in pain management and symptom control. They specialize in helping patients and families deal with the many burdens of a serious illness – from treatment side-effects to caregiver stress to worries about the future. Hospice physicians can assist you in making difficult decisions and help family members agree on the best course of action.
Q: What’s the difference between palliative care and hospice care?
A: Palliative care reduces suffering and enhances quality of life for people at any stage of serious illness, whether their condition is curable, chronic, or life-threatening. Hospice is a type of palliative care for people whose life expectancy is six months or less. Accordingly, hospice care is always palliative, but not all palliative care is hospice care.
Q: If I receive hospice care, will I still be able to see my personal doctor?
A: Yes. Your hospice doctor will coordinate your care with your other doctors.
Q: Does hospice care mean I’m ‘giving up?’
A: Definitely not. Hospice care provides the right help at the right time to people near the end of life. Hospice is designed to help you feel as well as possible and live each moment to the fullest, focusing on the people and things that are most important to you. Hospice support can often enable you to remain in your home, rather than a clinical setting. It can help you avoid unnecessary emergency-room visits and hospitalizations.
People on hospice can still go out with friends and family and enjoy their normal activities, if they are physically able to do so.
In fact, hospice care can often improve a person’s quality of life by controlling symptoms such as pain, nausea, and lack of appetite. It can help someone live to see an important occasion or milestone, such as a family wedding, graduation, or a new baby’s arrival.
Q: Could taking pain medication hasten my death?
A: Medicine that is properly prescribed will not bring about death. Your hospice doctor has the expertise to create a medication plan that makes you comfortable and is safe.
Q: How can I find a hospice doctor?
A: Start by searching for a local hospice organization that meets the highest quality standards. For tips on what to look for in a hospice organization, click here. Then research the physicians associated with the organization.