Supportive Care Progress: OSF Saint Elizabeth

Contributed by:
Nancy Tuftie, Director of Social Services – OSF Saint Elizabeth Medical Center

The past 15 months, OSF Saint Elizabeth Medical Center in Ottawa, Illinois has been provided support from OSF Supportive Care Ministry in so many ways!

We have been using a lot of time educating physicians and staff on advance care planning (ACP) benefits for our patients.  Communication has improved with physicians and staff when explaining the benefits as well as burdens in continuing advanced medical treatment.

When the cost to the patient’s body and the false hope it can give to family and friends is explained, ACP facilitators are encouraged by this. The 2012 Annual Report showed patients having ACP completed experienced less anxiety and fear, giving them comfort knowing their physician and family/friends understand their future medical care wishes.

Integrating Palliative Care

Palliative Care is being integrated into the care of our patients.  This past year, education to physicians and staff proceeded well.  The community has a better understanding of palliative care.  They understand it is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses, with a focus on providing relief from symptoms, pain and stress associated with a serious illness.

The goal has always been to improve the quality of life for both patients and their families. The palliative care team works with the primary care physician to provide an extra layer of support.  This program is for anyone, at any age and stage of a serious illness.  It can be provided along with curative treatments.  Statistics have proven palliative care patients live 50% longer than non-palliative care patients.

The palliative care team consists of palliative care physician, ANP, nurse, social worker and pastoral care.  We hope to add additional disciplines in the future and encourage primary care physicians to attend.

Supportive Care & the ACO Model

Advance care planning, completing a Power of Attorney for Health Care form and offering palliative care consults ties into the accountable care organizational model so much.  The future demands that we provide higher quality of care, better patient care and outcomes without “unnecessary expenses”.  It’s our responsibility to make sure palliative care stays integrated not just because it’s a nice benefit, but rather a must have.

Supportive Care Goes National

Recently, ABC news stressed the importance of ACP stating, “It is a gift you can give your family.  Real love, is to inform them in writing and verbally for your future medical needs.”

The New York Times recently had an article on “Futile Care at Life’s End” that Dr. Joseph Piccone, Senior Vice President of Mission and Ethics for OSF HealthCare, shared. Dr. Neil Wenger, a professor of medicine at University of California, Los Angeles stated in the article,  “This cost to the patient in terms of prolonged death and families acting on inappropriate hope”, shows that some patients are receiving advanced medical treatment that is not beneficial to them.

The Wall Street Journal recently had an article on “The Ultimate End of Life Plan” that Robert Maguire, MD, internal medicine physician, Hospice Medical Director and palliative care champion at OSF Saint Elizabeth  shared.  This was a well-written story about a woman who struggled with the medical team to ensure her end of life wishes were adhered to.  It proves the point for the need for a lot more conversation with patients regarding their conditions, including details of benefits as well as burdens of it.

Final Reflections

Everyone wants the best quality of life as long as possible.  The opportunity for everyone is now.  TALK, TALK, TALK to your family and physicians.  You are the one to give your own life as well as your death meaning.  Most adults organize their future for their property through a last will and testament and Power of Attorney for property, etc.  we all need to start NOW!  I’ve witnessed individuals who do end of life planning – the suffering and negative impacts on everybody is much less to these individuals, their families and the whole society.

Families believe in providing everything possible to help a loved one, and sometimes allowing death will be that help.  Doing everything with the greatest care and love (with serious illnesses) will guide us towards comfort care.  We are born and we are all going to die.  Caring for a loved one does not require us to utilize every medical treatment available to prolong life.

Through advance care planning, palliative care teams and hospice, OSF Supportive Care will continue to be extremely involved with the future of our health care.

About Author: Michael Vujovich

An OSF Mission Partner for over a decade, Director of Digital Marketing Michael Vujovich describes himself as a “photo-taking, guitar-playing, web-designing, house-remodeling, cat-loving Star Wars geek.”

As Director of Digital Marketing he oversees a team of digital marketing experts who help manage web, social media and digital advertising strategies for the entire OSF Ministry.

Mike earned his Bachelor of Science in Multimedia from Bradley University in 2007 and a Master of Science in Health Administration from the University of St. Francis in 2014.

In his spare time, Mike enjoys teaching web design at his alma mater, Bradley University, in Peoria and spending time with his wife and their three “fur children”: Marie, Sookie and Bella.

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Categories: Palliative Care & Hospice

1 Comment

  • Linda Fehr says:

    I appreciate Nancy’s thoughts and insights related to advance care planning.
    With over 10,000 patients having participated in advance care planning across the OSF HealthCare Ministry, we are changing the cultural norm to believing that exceptional “end-of-life” care is just as important as exceptional “beginning of life” care!