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Today, palliative care doesn't necessarily mean end-of-life care, but it does mean that help is on the way, no matter what a patient's prognosis is. Today's broadly inclusive palliative care is defined as medical treatment that focuses on the relief of distress for patients and their families-period. The newly defined discipline is considered a hot, new specialty that is sweeping across the country, and The Queen's Medical Center has joined other U.S. hospitals in offering the service.

Palliative care at Queen's has joined an existing department-Pain Management-to officially become the Pain and Palliative Care Department. "People either think we're hospice care or have no idea [about what we do]," says Daniel Fischberg, MD, PhD, the department's new medical director. The department is ready to deal with the impact any serious or chronic illness has on physical, emotional, social or spiritual health. Assessments are made not only for pain, but for fatigue, anxiety, shortness of breath, sleep deprivation, constipation, confusion and other symptoms. They also help with the practical, like how to pay for medications, if that is what is causing distress, or even conflict resolution. The pain care part of the department continues to specialize in ameliorating acute pain and providing pain consultations for any Queen's inpatient.

Palliative care as a specialty originated in the hospice setting, where it got its end-of-life connotation. Because it was so successful in hospices, medical professionals felt that the benefits of palliative care should be extended to patients much earlier, perhaps at the time of diagnosis. Dr. Fischberg, who is a nationally recognized expert and board-certified in pain management, hospice and palliative medicine, as well as internal medicine, says the goal of palliative care is enhancing quality-of-life. The department works collaboratively to support the care plan of primary care physicians and specialists to provide care to people living with many serious illnesses.

Queen's has joined the venerated ranks of approximately 20 percent of U.S. hospitals to bring this service to those who need it most. "There's something almost unique here, and very special," Dr. Fischberg explains. "Queen's really believes in this program, and it's so patient focused. When I heard about the values of this institution, it all made sense."

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