Study Finds Many Palliative Care Programs are Understaffed
Palliative care programs are designed to alleviate the stress and struggle of a serious long-term illness for not only the person who is sick, but their close relatives as well. While a palliative care program can the best environment in which to nurse an extremely sick person back to health or at least keep them comfortable, new studies have shown that the staff and financial support for palliative care programs simply do not exist in many hospitals.
Palliative care doesn’t exist only in hospice settings; rather, most hospitals nowadays have palliative care programs that are dedicated to the overall wellness of their patients and their families. In fact, about 90 percent of hospitals that have more than 300 beds reported having palliative care services available to their patients in a 2013 survey. However, according to a recent article by Kaiser Health News, most hospital palliative care programs are severely understaffed.
Since this type of program is a difficult one to regulate—only the patient and his or her family can truly decide what they need from palliative care specialists—many hospital palliative care programs are simply not meeting the staffing needs of a large hospital. Typically, a palliative care team includes a physician experienced in whatever long-term illness the patient suffers, a nurse, a social worker and a chaplain. According to Kaiser Health, a September issue of Health Affairs stated that only about 1 in 4 palliative care teams in 2013 included each of these people.
Part of the problem is, as we mentioned before, is the difficulty in regulating this type of non-hospice program. That said, many advocates of hospital palliative care say that there should be regulations in place that require each patient receives the same high standard of care, as well as a full team dedicated to their long-term wellbeing. The solution may be simple, but in order to enforce such regulations, most hospitals in the country will need to get on board.