Physicians specializing in palliative care specialize in caring for patients suffering from chronic or terminal diseases, helping raise the quality of life in patients and providing pain relief.

Watch an Overview of Palliative Care

About Palliative Care

Physicians that practice in the area of palliative care are trained to provide patients with relief for symptoms experienced as a result of a terminal or chronic disease, such as cancer. Palliative care is often provided for those with a terminal diagnosis, but may also be provided for those who have not received a terminal prognosis. The overall goal of palliative care is to ease the suffering in patients, and provide them with the highest quality of life possible. Palliative care physicians are not tasked with curing the condition, but to make patients as comfortable as possible.

Physicians providing palliative care generally offer their services as part of a multidisciplinary medical team. The palliative care physician works closely with other medical providers, depending upon the patient’s diagnosis. For example, in a patient with terminal cancer, a palliative care physician may work alongside general oncologists, surgical oncologists, interventional radiologists, and other healthcare providers.

Palliative care may be provided to patients in a host of different settings, many of which depend on the patient’s specific condition or state of health. For example, palliative care may be provided in the home for patients who do not require around-the-clock monitoring in a hospital setting. In this case, the patient may receive care from licensed nurses or other practitioners who are under the specific direction of a palliative care physician. Alternatively, patients who require 24/7 monitoring for their condition will receive palliative care in hospital or clinical settings.

Palliative Care Education & Training

Various types of doctors have the ability to become palliative care physicians, and most take a rather similar route to accomplish their goal. Four years of premedical study followed by four years of further education at an accredited medical university is necessary to enter into any of eleven medical fellowships. These fellowships include those in the fields of family medicine, internal medicine, pediatrics, emergency medicine, anesthesiology, neurology, psychiatry, general surgery, radiology, physical medicine & rehabilitation specialists and obstetrics & gynecology.

Palliative doctors are expected to have exceptional communication skills and be able to connect with patients in dire circumstances and chronic pain. Being able to not only aid with chronic physical pain, but the emotional pain associated with chronic illness and impending death is what separates a palliative doctor from the rest of the medical community.