Improving the quality of life for patients and their families
What is Palliative Medicine?
Dr. James Nunnery, medical director
Palliative Medicine is the treatment of patients who are suffering from life-limiting or life-threatening illnesses. Because suffering takes many forms, including physical, spiritual, psychological and social, Saint Thomas Health has assembled a Palliative Care team from a variety of patient care disciplines. These specialists work with primary care physicians to alleviate the patient’s suffering. The Palliative Care team is composed of a physician, an advanced practice nurse, a chaplain, social workers and other health care specialists who have received specialized training in the care of patients with serious and life-threatening illnesses. The team’s mission is to improve the quality of life for the patient and their family.
There are few experiences in life that feel as lonely and difficult as facing a serious illness. That is why Saint Thomas Health treats the physical symptoms as well as works to heal the psychological, social, economic and spiritual suffering of the patients for whom we have been entrusted with their care. The Saint Thomas Health Palliative Care team is composed of a physician, an advanced practice nurse, a chaplain, social workers and other health care specialists who have received specialized training in the care of patients with serious and life-threatening illnesses. Our team works in collaboration with the patient’s doctors to offer the best possible care and quality of life for both the patient and their family.
Marshall Gupton, M.Div, chaplain, Julie Hudgens, Pharm.D, Leslie Peck, LCSW, social worker, Judy Leverette, APN, nurse practitioner, Dr. James Nunnery, medical director
How do I know if palliative care is right for my family member or me?
You may want to consider palliative care:
Patients that might benefit from consultation with Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital's Palliative Care team include those with:
- If you need relief from symptoms due to a serious illness such as cancer, stroke, neurological illnesses (example: ALS or dementia), or advanced heart, lung, liver or kidney disease.
- If you need a better understanding of your condition and options for your care.
- If you have reached a turning point in the illness where treatment is no long working.
- If you have had frequent hospitalizations or emergency rooms visits.
- If your treatments are becoming a burden rather than a benefit.
- If you and your family need emotional or spiritual support due to the stress of a serious illness.
- End stage organ failure, (pulmonary, cardiac, hepatic, or renal)
- Neurological illnesses such as stroke, ALS, and dementia
- Need for care focused on comfort
- Advanced terminal illness
- Traumatic life-limiting or life-threatening injuries.
What the Saint Thomas Health Palliative Care team can do for you.
Our team can coordinate care and treatment with your doctors at any stage of your illness. We will identify support services to help you both during and after your hospital stay. We will provide guidance and support:
- When you need treatment for pain and other symptoms such as nausea, shortness of breath or anxiety.
- When you and your family are making complex medical decisions.
- When you need help to maintain the most comfortable, independent and active life possible.
The Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital Palliative Care team works with the patient's physicians to assist with:
- Treatment options for difficult to manage symptoms including:
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Swallowing difficulties
- Support with time intensive patient/family communication, including discussions about Advanced Care Directives.
- Emotional and spiritual support for patients and families as they navigate the healthcare system.
- Identifying and coordinating support services for patients after discharge from the hospital.
- Comfort care at the end of life.
How is Palliative care different from Hospice care?
Palliative care is available to help patients manage symptoms and suffering throughout the course of their illness - from the time of the diagnosis until death. Our program’s goal is to improve the quality of life for both you and your family.
Hospice care is limited to those who have a prognosis of approximately six months of life that is based on the natural course of their disease. Patients in hospice care generally are no longer receiving treatment to cure their illness.
How do I request the services of the palliative care team?
The Saint Thomas Health Palliative Care team provides inpatient consultations at the request of your physician. If you think that you or your family member would benefit from palliative care, ask your nurse or physician for a referral.
Lean more about Palliative Care by calling:
- Saint Thomas Midtown Hospital - 615-284-8451
- Saint Thomas Rutherford Hospital - 615-396-5950
- Saint Thomas West Hospital - 615-222-3000
Most insurance plans, including Medicare, cover palliative care services.