Few Hospital Palliative Care Programs Meet National Staffing Recommendations


Joanne Spetz, Nancy Dudley, Laura Trupin, Maggie Rogers, Diane E. Meier and Tamara Dumanovsky

September 7, 2016

This study, which was published in Health Affairs, was the first major data analysis of hospital palliative care programs’ workforce. The growing field of palliative care, which affects nearly all Americans, focuses on improving quality of life for patients with serious illnesses – including everything from cancer to heart disease – and their family caregivers. This care is provided regardless of whether the patient is expected to recover, live with the illness for an extended period of time, or is nearing the end of life.

Some highlights from the study:

  • Palliative care programs reached only a median of 3.4 percent of hospital patients
  • One-third of palliative care programs did not have recommended coverage of in-person business-hours availability and 24/7 telephone access
  • Only one-fourth of programs have a complete team for palliative care services, including a physician, nurse, social worker, and chaplain

To meet current and future palliative care needs, expanded and enhanced education, as well as supportive financing mechanisms for consultations, are needed.

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