In March 2003, four health care institutions from around the country received grants totaling nearly $1.5 million for developing innovative ways of integrating high-quality palliative care services in critical care settings. The four demonstration projects are developing palliative care models for ICUs and assessing the impact on the quality of care for patients and their families. The grants are enhancing care across the spectrum of Medical, Surgical, Trauma, Acute Care, Burn, Coronary and Pediatric ICUs.
Promoting Excellence in End-of-Life Care, a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, selected grantees for 3-year projects from a highly competitive pool of 242 applicants responding to the "Promoting Palliative Care Excellence in Intensive Care" call for proposals. All projects have co-principal investigator teams comprised of a nurse and a physician.
Although many Americans receive highly skilled, state-of-the-art care in ICUs, experts increasingly recognize that critically ill patients also can benefit from palliative services. All four of the projects selected proposed comprehensive, coordinated approaches to patient care in ICUs that include team-based care planning involving the patient and the family, attention to spiritual comfort and psychosocial support for patients and families and bereavement support for families of patients who die.
Ira Byock, M.D., a pre-eminent palliative care physician at Dartmouth Medical School and Director of the Promoting Excellence in End-of-Life Care national program, explains the need for the demonstration projects, "For too long, critical care and palliative care have been viewed as polar opposites. In reality, the science and skills of both disciplines are needed to provide optimal care for critically ill or injured patients and their families."
Each project suggests a cultural change in critical care settings that fuses palliative care into existing practice patterns, and includes educating ICU staff and embedding palliative care practice in daily hospital routines. Projects are:
"This Promoting Excellence initiative seeks to integrate attention to comfort and quality of life within state-of-the-art critical care," says Byock. "In so doing, we hope to elevate best practice standards of critical care to a new plane. The enthusiastic response to the call for proposals is evidence of the strong commitment among leaders in critical care to advance the human values of comfort and emotional and spiritual caring within the high-tech environment and high-pressure pace of ICU practice.
Also see: Critical Care Workgroup
Lehigh Valley Hospital and Health Network
Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School
New Jersey Medical School
University of Washington Schools of Medicine and Nursing
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Promoting Excellence in End-of-Life Care is a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation dedicated to long-term changes in health care institutions to substantially improve care for dying people and their families. Visit PromotingExcellence.org for more resources.