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The premier resource for hospital professionals from Relias Media, the trusted source for healthcare information and continuing education.

Comfort vs. cure – Palliative care moves to the head of the class

If there’s anything in this world that’s difficult to watch, it’s a child in pain. Now the word is out that children are experiencing pain a lot more than anyone realized.

Just-published research from eight university-affiliated pediatric healthcare centers found that pain intensity scores in hospitalized infants ranged widely. Also a large number of them (33%) had moderate to severe pain while they were in the hospital.

There was some good news: Two-thirds of the children studied had a pain assessment performed within the first 24 hours, which the authors say is a significant improvement from previous reports. However, the assessments were variable, inconsistent, and didn’t adhere to accreditation guidelines. One reason might be that self-report pain assessments were found to be widely used, even in children who were as young as 5 years old. Best to save those self-assessments for the older, verbally competent children, the researchers recommend.

One possible solution to the problem may be palliative care teams. Hospitals are adding them “at a feverish pace,” according to an Associated Press article published earlier this year. The article says that about 63% of hospitals have palliative care programs. The field can only grow as aging baby boomers like me carry our aching bones and joints to hospitals for care.

These palliative care teams are used for patients with cancer, heart and liver failure, HIV and AIDS, emphysema, sickle cell anemia, COPD, and other illnesses, the AP reports. The palliative teams might include physicians, nurses, social workers, and chaplains, it says. They coordinate care, consult with patients and their families, and can prescribe medications for side effects from treatment before they happen. The result can be shorter LOS and corresponding reduced costs. Now that’s what I call pain relief, and not just for the patients!

If you want more information on this topic, look to the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC), which is holding a national seminar Nov. 1-3, 2012, in Miami. The CAPC is offering a special rate to two or more attendees from the same institution, as well as members of the American Hospital Association, the University HealthSystem Consortium, and the American Cancer Society.