Section: News

November is Palliative Care Month


Quality of life focus of enhanced program at St. Joseph Hospital

Clinical Coordinator Kristen Miller (left), RN, BSN and Dr. Michael FratkinNorth Coast residents who have serious, chronic or terminal illnesses understand the important role quality of life plays as they undergo treatment. At St. Joseph Hospital, these patients now have more services available to help ease their pain and improve their overall quality of life.

The hospital is enhancing its palliative care services through a devoted and specially trained team of physicians, nurses, social workers, spiritual health personnel and volunteers.

Palliative care focuses on pain and symptom control and promoting quality of life for patients living with a serious, chronic, or terminal illness. For their families, palliative care works to assure physical comfort while providing psychosocial and spiritual support.

St. Joseph Hospital’s palliative care program now features a devoted and specially trained team led by Dr. Michael Fratkin and Kristen Miller, RN, BSN, the clinical coordinator for the program.

"Patients with serious illnesses often need support services to help them cope as they go through what is often a traumatic experience," Dr. Fratkin said. "Palliative care providers help patients understand the nature of their illness so they can make timely, informed decisions about their care, together with their families."

Added CEO Joe Mark, "Palliative care services are an essential part of patient care here at St. Joseph Hospital. Expanding the program will enable the hospital to provide these services to more patients with serious, chronic or terminal illnesses."

With a focus on both patient and family, palliative care begins when a life-threatening illness or injury occurs and continues through the bereavement process. Unlike hospice, palliative care can be provided simultaneously with curative measures and is offered as a complement to all other appropriate medical treatments.

Palliative care is perfectly aligned with the mission and goals of the Sisters of St Joseph of Orange, including the concepts of sacred encounters, and perfect care. The hospital’s "No One Dies Alone" program is a good example of the palliative care philosophy at work. In the No One Dies Alone Program, a select group of "compassionate companions" provides a reassuring presence to dying patients who would otherwise be alone.

The number of U.S. hospitals offering palliative care services is growing rapidly. According to a 2007 survey by the American Hospital Association, 30 percent of the nations 4,000 acute care hospitals now have palliative care programs.

In addition to focusing on the relief of suffering, palliative care teams work to coordinate and rationalize care, ensuring that diagnostics, therapeutics, care setting and intensity of care are aligned with patient and family preferences. Palliative care teams emphasize symptom management, communication, advance care planning, spiritual support, psychosocial support, and discharge planning.

Palliative care helps patients and families by prioritizing comfort and quality of life by recognizing and addressing many forms of suffering. For patients and families, palliative care offers:

§ Relief from symptom distress, particularly pain, anxiety and other symptoms commonly seen at the end of life

§ Help in clarifying the goals of care and assistance in understanding the plan of care

§ Help navigating a complex and confusing medical system

§ Help with coordinating and accessing care options

§ A focus on palliation along with continued disease modifying treatments (no requirement to forego curative care, as is the case with hospice)

§ Practical and emotional support for exhausted family caregivers

§ Dedicated attention to the spiritual and emotional issues that arise

For more information on the palliative care program at St. Joseph Hospital, email Kristen Miller at

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