Hospice and palliative medicine: A novel subspecialty of emergency medicine

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Background: Emergency Medicine (EM) is a resuscitative discipline where the major focus in teaching and practice is to rapidly diagnose, stabilize, and initiate curative therapy. Thus, it may seem counterintuitive to have Hospice and Palliative Medicine (HPM), a specialty often perceived as a last resort measure "when no more can be done" for the patient, included as the latest subspecialty of EM. Objective: We discuss the scope of practice and the role of HPM in the emergency department (ED) to clarify some commonly held misconceptions. Discussion: HPM principles are frequently applied in ED patient care. EM clinicians routinely rely on many of the same skills that are refined and advanced by HPM when treating symptoms, facilitating goals of care discussions, communicating bad news, and integrating the treatment of the physical, psychological, and social suffering in patient care. The HPM approach to care is patient-centered as opposed to disease-centered, with a focus on the relief of distressing symptoms to improve the quality of life. This parallels ED care, where priority is given to alleviate distressing symptoms such as acute pain or vomiting, regardless of the underlying disease process. In fact, EM is one specialty in which we may submit a bill purely based on an International Classification of Diseases-9th Revision symptom code. Conclusion: In this article we explore the background of HPM; outline the principles and core skills of HPM that are applicable to the daily practice of EM; and explore the pathway, now available, towards a subspecialty certification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)849-853
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 1 2012


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Emergency Medicine

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