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Palliative Care Offers a Team Approach: March 28, 2012

When someone is facing a serious illness, they may have one team on their side, which has no stake in their disease but is more concerned about their well-being.

“Palliative care is an interdisciplinary medicine usually composing a physician, nurse, chaplain and social worker that works to support and provide care for quality of life for patients with serious medical illnesses,” says Dr. Sherika Newman, a palliative care physician with Lee Memorial Health System.

Palliative care is the best thing you may have never heard of. It’s recently gaining traction as health care recognizes a patient’s physical and mental well being and finds a way to treat them both.

“Palliative medicine actually runs concurrent with a patient’s medical illness even when they are in curative phases such as chemotherapy, radiation therapy, being treated for their heart failure or chronic lung disease,” says Dr. Newman.

The team works alongside specialists who treat medical conditions.

“We will address any symptoms that is related to the serious illness. If its pain, I will address the narcotics, if it’s severe nausea and vomiting, we address it. Our social workers will address whatever social dynamics the patients or family maybe experience,” says Dr. Newman.

Much like the medical care providers, the palliative team creates an action plan, allowing patients to have some control over their lives, even if it means transitioning to end of care or hospice.

“We’re having the difficult conversation with the patient sometimes it could take several hours to even arrive at a plan but we go in trying to make sure we come out with some type of plan for the patient’s care,” says Dr. Newman.

Serving the emotional, social and even spiritual needs of the patient reinforces the notion of compassionate care.