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Easing advanced illness holding hands

September 2012

by Sheila Hotchkin

Patients and families facing serious illness are gaining support from a thriving palliative care program established at University Health System a year ago.

Complementing resources already available to University Health System patients, the Lifelong Intensive Family Emotional (LIFE) care program began with two key hires last summer. Jason Morrow, M.D., Ph.D., was brought in to oversee the inpatient palliative consultation service, and Jennifer Healy, D.O., manages the palliative outpatient clinic. They work with Charles Nolan, M.D., a University Health System transplant nephrologist and overall program director. All three doctors are on the faculty of the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center.

"Itís an absolutely flourishing program," said Dr. Morrow, adding that the program makes dozens of consultations each month. "We really got going last summer, and itís been nonstop since."

Palliative care can help anyone facing a serious or advanced illness. Its practitioners assist in pain and symptom control, ease communication with the medical team and bridge patients to resources like hospice care, rehabilitation services and counseling. They also offer support as patients and families make complex, emotional health care decisions.

Already, the University Health System program has demonstrated its ability to improve patient satisfaction. Dr. Morrow calls its success a testament to the hospital system. "The executive leadership has been behind this from the beginning," he said, noting that the program recently was able to hire its own social worker and chaplain.

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