Docs emphasize importance of palliative care in the ER

A small but growing number of emergency physicians and nurses are emphasizing the importance of integrating palliative care into the ED to create a more patient-centered approach, reports.

About 700,000 ED patients die in the emergency room or during their subsequent hospital stay each year. Many are suffering from chronic or fatal diseases that eventually claim their lives.

Slate details how some physicians are encouraging palliative/emergency medicine collaboration by bringing the deliberative goal-setting and symptom-controlling tenets of palliative care into the fast-paced ED setting.

Ultimately, their aim is to improve symptom management, enhance family support, and ensure that dying patients and their loved ones understand the likely outcomes once they leave the safety of the ED.

"The patients these doctors and nurses want to reach don't all need the technological wizardry of emergency medicine," Slate reports. "They need someone who can control pain, delirium, or shortness of breath and who knows how to break bad news. Someone who ... understands the gap between emotional expectations and medical realities and can help the family define-and the medical team understand-the goals of care. And do it fast."

To learn more:
- Read the article
- Read this entry in the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog
- Revisit this Medscape artilce about palliative care in the emergency department