Those who improve end-of-life, palliative care honored

Circle of Life logoHonoring the people in hospices, hospitals, health care systems and long-term care facilities who collectively work to improve palliative and end-of-life care is what the Circle of Life Awards, co-sponsored by NASW, are all about.

“Winning this award means that the program has achieved the very high standards that the American Hospital Association, NASW, and other supporting organizations set,” said Stacy Orloff, an NASW member who served on this year’s Circle of Life Awards committee. Award criteria include implementation of the National Consensus Project’s “Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care,” which NASW helped revise in 2013.

“It’s always important to have a stretch benchmark to set your achievements against,” said Orloff, who is vice president of Innovation and Community Health at Suncoast Hospice in Florida. “The Circle of Life is such an award. It is highly recognized in the palliative care world, and, as such, programs strive to receive this award.”

As a member of the awards committee, Orloff had the opportunity to review the many different innovative programs taking place across the country.

“It’s quite impressive how programs large and small find unique ways to meet the needs of their community,” she said. “It’s also very interesting to see the many different partnerships that are being formed.”

The 2014 Circle of Life Award recipients are:

OACIS/Palliative Medicine of the Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pa. LVHN’s palliative medicine program — Optimizing Advanced Complex Illness Support — provides services through inpatient consultations, an outpatient clinic and home visits. The program collaborates with LVHN’s primary care to serve people early in the course of serious illnesses such as dementia, multiple sclerosis and congestive heart failure. The OACIS home-based program collaborates with LVHN’s time bank, Community Exchange. Community Exchange volunteers, including individuals and families participating in OACIS, exchange services such as medication pickup, transportation to medical appointments and caregiver respite.

Supportive & Palliative Care from the Baylor Health Care System in Dallas, Texas.

Baylor’s Supportive and Palliative Care Program, or SPC, provides consultations for each acute- and chronic-care facility. Teams of social workers, chaplains, nurses and physicians provide consultations. Each team either has or is pursuing Joint Commission advanced certification for palliative care.

Baylor has integrated SPC in its ambulatory and community-based programs, such as its home-call program for older adults and outpatient clinics for people of all ages. Both the facility- and community-based SPC programs are intended for people at any stage of illness, not just at the end of life.

Baylor also developed a MOST form (Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment), based on the National POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) Paradigm, and has helped train health care practitioners in various settings on use of the form. SPC spearheaded a $25,000 scholarship to bring a palliative care education program for African-Americans to North Texas nursing home and church workers in the African-American community.

Yakima Valley Memorial Hospital in Yakima, Wash.

The hospital mobilized community resources to create a variety of hospice and palliative care services for residents of rural Yakima County. Twenty percent of county residents live in poverty and more than half are either Latino or American Indian/Alaska Native. One service is called Transitions, an outpatient, home-based palliative care program. It is staffed by a social worker and volunteers who collaborate as needed with a hospice liaison nurse and community physicians.

The hospital raised $5 million from within the community to build a hospice house. The program has provided extensive community outreach to promote culturally and linguistically appropriate end-of-life care: providing end-of-life training to local clergy; messages on Spanish-language radio and television; services at the local homeless shelter and federally qualified health centers; and collaborating with the Yakima tribe.

In addition, a 2014 Circle of Life Citation of Honor was given to the Center for Palliative and Supportive Care Ambulatory Palliative Care Program from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. It offers services in two outpatient clinics, at home and via telemedicine.

The program includes interdisciplinary teams in both outpatient clinics (one of which is dedicated to serving people living with HIV) and team coaches who organize “organic support networks” of family and friends.

Read more about the awards, visit Circle of Life Winners.