Palliative care guidelines revised

The National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care has released the third edition of its Clinical Practice Guidelines for Palliative Care.

The NCP developed the first edition of the guidelines in 2004. NASW is one of six NCP organizations involved in the revision process and endorses the guidelines.

NASW Senior Practice Associate Chris Herman and NASW member Stacy Orloff represented NASW on the NCP task force that revised the guidelines.

The guidelines are written for interdisciplinary teams and include eight domains of palliative care: structures and processes; physical aspects; psychological and psychiatric aspects; social aspects; spiritual, religious and existential aspects; cultural aspects; care of the patient at the end of life; and ethical and legal aspects.

“The guidelines may be used to develop or enhance palliative care programs in hospitals, hospices, nursing homes, community-based programs, and other health care settings,” Herman said. “Regardless of setting, the guidelines emphasize the interdisciplinary nature of palliative care.”

Throughout the revision process, Herman and Orloff contributed substantive input on all aspects of the guidelines, with particular emphasis on the psychological, social and cultural aspects of care; pediatric palliative care; strengths-based, patient- and family-centered care; and palliative care provided in hospice programs.

“These guidelines can set up an expectation of the best practices and standards to strive for across all palliative care programs,” said Orloff, vice president of Palliative Care and Community Programs at Suncoast Hospice in Florida. “Social workers are very active team members in providing palliative care. As active members, it’s important to be aware of the guidelines.”

The formal release of the third and most recent edition was in March at the annual assembly of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. Orloff and Herman will co-present a webinar on the guidelines as part of NASW’s Lunchtime Series, on June 27.

The guidelines can be downloaded free at The National Coalition for Hospice and Palliative Care

Social Work in Palliative Care

The Joint Commission recognizes social work as one of four core disciplines within palliative care. Other core professionals on palliative care teams are chaplains, nurses and physicians, though palliative care teams may include a number of other professionals.

The guidelines specify that each palliative care team include a professional social worker, defined as an individual with a bachelor’s or master’s degree in social work from an accredited school.

The role of social work in providing specialized, age-appropriate psychological intervention is noted.

The guidelines include an entire domain addressing the social aspects of palliative care and multiple resources specific to palliative social work.

The six NCP organizations involved in the guideline revision process are: NASW; American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine; Center to Advance Palliative Care; Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association; the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization; and the National Palliative Care Research Center.