UAMS Palliative Care Program First in State for Advanced Certification

 Palliative Care Program receives advanced certification
Chief Medical Officer Nicholas Lang, M.D., (left) and Vice Chancellor for Clinical Programs and UAMS Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Roxane Townsend, M.D., (right) present Sarah Beth Harrington, M.D., with a certificate from The Joint Commission in recognition of the commission’s advanced certification for the UAMS Palliative Care Program.

Aug. 9, 2013 | The University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) Palliative Care Program has received advanced certification, becoming the first in Arkansas and one of only 36 nationally to become accredited under a new national evaluation process.

The Joint Commission, a national evaluation and accreditation organization, began issuing advanced certification for palliative care in February 2012. The UAMS Palliative Care Program was awarded its certification April 30, and it was officially framed and presented by UAMS leaders at a ceremony this week.

The UAMS Palliative Care Program focuses on improving the overall quality of life for patients and families facing serious illness. The program provides patient- and family-centered care; pain and symptom management; interdisciplinary support for social, emotional and spiritual issues associated with serious illnesses; and coordinated care across hospital, clinic and home settings.

Sarah Beth Harrington, M.D., leads the program, which includes four other physicians, a fellow, a registered nurse, social worker, chaplain and a chaplain resident. The team saw 236 inpatients in 2008 and more than 1,100 in 2012.

“The program has seen significant growth during the last five years,” Harrington said. “Our palliative care program is integrated throughout the hospital. We have about 25 patients at a time, and of those about one-third are in our intensive care units, 60 percent have cancer, and about 70 percent are younger than 65.”

Unlike hospice, which is for end-of-life care, the UAMS Palliative Care Program focuses on bringing experts together to coordinate care for patients with serious diagnoses to relieve their pain, anxiety, nausea and stress, and help them navigate the health care system and coordinate their care. It helps patients and their families prioritize needs and helps ensure that patients get the right care at the right time.

“This often means that they are able to go home sooner, and even live longer,” Harrington said.

“The surveyor was highly complementary of our program,” said Donna Baas, director of accreditation and compliance at the UAMS Medical Center. “There was tremendous support from faculty and staff across disciplines, and it was clear from the beginning that everyone was engaged and enthusiastic about the program Dr. Harrington and her team has developed.”

“Accreditation by The Joint Commission is a ‘seal of approval’ that indicates our Palliative Care Program meets stringent performance standards,” Baas said. “This accreditation signifies the highest standard of patient care, business processes and staff education.”

The UAMS Palliative Care Program joins the UAMS Stroke Program as achieving advance certification status through the Joint Commission.

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