Improving the Care of the Terminally Ill in the Emergency Department
Jon Mark Hirshon1
1TBD, University of Maryland School of Medicine, United States of America
In the practice of emergency medicine, we frequently take care of individuals who have life-threatening conditions and who may be terminally ill. Many of these individuals come through the emergency department multiple times, as the emergency department is an important system resource that allows patients to access needed healthcare services. As demand for emergency services continues to grow, it is critical to be able to provide the best care to patients who have serious chronic illnesses or are dying. In order to address this growing population of patients with terminal illnesses, emergency medicine is increasingly including palliative care into the education of our trainees and the care we are delivering. This presentation will discuss the challenges of taking care of the terminally ill in the emergency department and the important role that palliative care can play in improving patient outcomes. It will highlight the benefits of placing palliative care services within the scope of emergency providers, noting some of the cultural challenges related to death and dying. Early access to palliative care services can improve conversations related to goals of care, help with the development of thoughtful care plans, and help to set reasonable and appropriate expectations for the patient, their family and the care team. The benefits of palliative care can lead to improved quality of life for the patient, better understanding of their disease process, and allow them to deal with their terminal illness with dignity and decreased symptom burden.