Palliative care is an approach to care that improves quality of life for people with serious illness and for their families. The focus is on supporting the patient and family and helping them navigate the challenges associated with serious illness, including:
Generalist or Primary Palliative Care
“Palliative care that is delivered by health care professionals who are not palliative care specialists, such as primary care clinicians; physicians who are disease-oriented specialists (such as oncologists and cardiologists); and nurses, social workers, pharmacists, chaplains, and others who care for this population but are not certified in palliative care.”
—Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care, 4th ed., National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care, 2018.
- Physical symptoms
- Psychological and spiritual concerns
- Tailoring care to each person’s individual needs and values
All people who are experiencing serious illness should have access to palliative care, beginning early in their illness and delivered in conjunction with disease-oriented treatments.
Great strides have been made nationally and within California public health care systems to establish and expand palliative care in hospital and community settings. This expansion has focused on palliative care delivery by specialists who have received training and additional certification in palliative care.
Gaps Still Remain
While palliative care services in California have grown, significant gaps remain between the need for palliative care and the supply of specialty palliative care services.
Thus, a central focus of the field of palliative care has become “generalist” or “primary” palliative care: the integration of key palliative care processes into the standard care provided by clinicians who care for seriously ill patients, such as primary care providers, hospitalists, oncologists, nurses, social workers, and chaplains. This model ensures that all seriously ill patients can access palliative care and reserves the limited resource of specialty palliative care for the most complicated patients.