By Michelle Hopkins| Photography by Brian Smith
Dr. Gil Kimel leads a team of physicians and nurses who, like him, are dedicated to helping those in their care manage their pain and symptoms. Sarah Cobb is a clinical nurse leader who is passionate about helping those at end-of-life and their families.
What qualities should palliative care (pc) providers possess?
Kimel: some people believe that pc physicians just comfort patients when they are dying, but pc is an evidence-based medicine subspecialty where we treat patients who have symptoms. The qualities pc physicians should possess include excellent understanding of pain and symptom management and outstanding communication skills with patients, families and team members.
Cobb: nurses in pc are driven by holistic patient care; you focus on all aspects of a patient’s life. Nurses tend to be very caring, compassionate and good communicators.
How do you help families prepare for their loved one’s going into palliative care?
Kimel: We allow for plenty of time for questions and discussion around the care plan. Families want to know their loved one’s prognosis, care plan and what their options are, such as home care versus hospice. We reassure families that our goal is to make their loved one feel comfortable and feel better through symptom management.
Cobb: It might mean dispelling the myth that pc is just end-of-life care, when it might be months of managing pain and other symptoms.
What types of challenges do families face?
Cobb: common challenges, understandably, are loss and anticipatory grief. Additionally, they are trying to navigate our health care system. Our team can guide and support them through their journey of loss with resources and services available to them.
Why did you gravitate to palliative care?
Kimel: During my training, I found it very difficult to see patients with serious illnesses in pain or suffering and so I became interested in learning about palliative medicine to improve patients’ quality of life. It’s very meaningful work for me. I also find it rewarding to build strong connections with patients and families.
Cobb: I worked for many years in a department where I saw many people die without the benefit of pc. This made me want to learn how to provide good end-of-life care. There’s comfort from a well-managed end-of-life, first and foremost for the patient but for family and caregivers as well.
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