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What is the difference between palliative care and hospice?

March 6, 2020

A Q&A with a Palliative Care Nurse Manager

Joan Pollner, MSN, RN, CHPN, CNE is an assistant nurse manager, Palliative Care, at Atlantic Health System’s Newton Medical Center and Hackettstown Medical Center.

Q. What is the difference between palliative care and hospice?

A. Palliative care is a medical specialty that deals with the symptoms of a chronic illness and how those symptoms affect the quality of life for the patient and loved ones surrounding them.

One important aspect of palliative care is advanced care planning. Ideally, advance care planning takes place before serious illness strikes. Many people think that advance care planning is decision making, however, while that may be an aspect of the process, it is more about information sharing so that groups of individuals have the knowledge needed to navigate the health care system in the face of chronic or serious illness.

Palliative care is delivered alongside all other care related to the management of a chronic illness or disease. It is provided along with other medical specialties such as cardiology, pulmonology, endocrinology, etc. Palliative care utilizes a multi-disciplinary team to manage physical symptoms, emotional and spiritual needs while a patient is still getting active treatment for their illness.

Hospice care is end of life care when the patient has decided not to have any more diagnostic testing or illness treatment and wants all of the medical interventions to focus on comfort. Usually hospice is for patients who have a life expectancy of six months or less when comfort is the main focus. Hospice utilizes a multi-disciplinary team to provide support with the goal of a comfortable and peaceful end of life experience. Hospice also provides support for the family through bereavement services for thirteen months after the death of their loved one.