Awards to honor palliative, EOL care

7 recognized as Circle of Life honorees

The Circle of Life Award celebrates programs across the nation that has made great strides in palliative and end-of-life care. This is the 12th year for the Circle of Life Award.

Circle of Life nominations were received and reviewed by a selection committee that included leaders from medicine, nursing, social work, and health administration. The committee visited programs that respect patient goals and preferences, provide comprehensive care, acknowledge and address the family or caregivers' concerns and needs, and build systems and mechanisms of support that will ensure that the programs continue. The programs selected serve as innovative models for other communities.

Three programs that expand the reach of palliative and end-of-life care will be recognized as the 2011 recipients of the Circle of Life Award: Celebrating Innovation in Palliative and End-of-Life Care, along with four others that will be awarded Citations of Honor.

The programs share overriding themes of compassion, dedication, and collaboration. Gilchrist Hospice Care in Hunt Valley, MD, has successfully integrated palliative care across hospital, hospice services, physician groups, patient homes, and long-term care and assisted living facilities. St. John Providence Health System in Detroit has hardwired palliative care into every service and educated staff, so that no matter where an individual enters the system, they are evaluated for palliative care needs. The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care in Cheektowaga, NY, provides an extensive care continuum and a sophisticated palliative care institute, with strong emphasis on collaboration, physician leadership, and clinical research.

Each of these innovative programs recently received a Circle of Life Award at a ceremony in San Diego.

"A patient needing palliative or end-of-life care faces difficult challenges that must be addressed with skill and unique expertise," said AHA president and CEO, Richard Umbdenstock, FACHE. "These winners exemplify what the health care field is striving for: compassionate care for patients and families at all times. These innovative programs serve as guiding lights for others on this path."

Citations of Honor were awarded to:

• Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, in recognition of its strong commitment to inpatient and outpatient palliative care, regional focus, and end-of-life and palliative care research and education;

• John H Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County in Chicago for its commitment to treating a diverse population with complex needs, including helping dying immigrant patients fulfill wishes to return to home countries;

• St. Mary's Healthcare System in Athens, GA, for embedding palliative care throughout the hospital and a culture change on the community level;

• University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pittsburgh, for providing close to seamless palliative care delivery and working to spread palliative care across the entire 18-hospital system.

The 2011 awards are supported, in part, by the California HealthCare Foundation, based in Oakland, CA, and the Archstone Foundation in Long Beach, CA. Major sponsors are the American Hospital Association, the Catholic Health Association, National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care, and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization & National Hospice Foundation. The American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and the National Association of Social Workers are Circle of Life cosponsors. The Circle of Life Award is a program administered by the Health Research & Educational Trust.

For more information on the Circle of Life Awards, visit www.aha.org/circleoflife.