Social workers who improve end-of-life, palliative care honored

Oct 29, 2014

By Paul R. Pace, News staff

Honoring the people in hospices, hospitals, health care systems and long-term care facilities who collectively work to improve palliative and end-of-life care is what the Circle of Life Awards, co-sponsored by NASW, are all about.

“Winning this award means that the program has achieved the very high standards that the American Hospital Association, NASW, and other supporting organizations set,” said Stacy Orloff, an NASW member who served on this year’s Circle of Life Awards committee. Award criteria include implementation of the National Consensus Project’s “Clinical Practice Guidelines for Quality Palliative Care,” which NASW helped revise in 2013.

“It’s always important to have a stretch benchmark to set your achievements against,” said Orloff, who is vice president of Innovation and Community Health at Suncoast Hospice in Florida. “The Circle of Life is such an award. It is highly recognized in the palliative care world, and, as such, programs strive to receive this award.”

As a member of the awards committee, Orloff had the opportunity to review the many different innovative programs taking place across the country.

“It’s quite impressive how programs large and small find unique ways to meet the needs of their community,” she said. “It’s also very interesting to see the many different partnerships that are being formed.”

The 2014 Circle of Life Award recipients are:

• OACIS/Palliative Medicine of the Lehigh Valley Health Network in Allentown, Pa. LVHN’s palliative medicine program — Optimizing Advanced Complex Illness Support — provides services through inpatient consultations, an outpatient clinic and home visits. The program collaborates with LVHN’s primary care to serve people early in the course of serious illnesses such as dementia, multiple sclerosis and congestive heart failure.

The OACIS home-based program collaborates with LVHN’s time bank, Community Exchange. Community Exchange volunteers, including individuals and families participating in OACIS, exchange services such as medication pickup, transportation to medical appointments and caregiver respite.

• Supportive & Palliative Care from the Baylor Health Care System in Dallas, Texas.

Baylor’s Supportive and Palliative Care Program, or SPC, provides consultations for each acute- and chronic-care facility. Teams of social workers, chaplains, nurses and physicians provide consultations. Each team either has or is pursuing Joint Commission advanced certification for palliative care.

Baylor has integrated SPC in its ambulatory and community-based programs, such as its home-call program for older adults and outpatient clinics for people of all ages. Both the facility- and community-based SPC programs are intended for people at any stage of illness, not just at the end of life.

Baylor also developed a MOST form (Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment), based on the National POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) Paradigm, and has helped train health care practitioners in various settings on use of the form. SPC spearheaded a $25,000 scholarship to bring a palliative care education program for African-Americans to North Texas nursing home and church workers in the African-American community.

From the October 2014 NASW News. NASW members can read the full story after logging in.