Hospice physicians are key members of the hospice team, responsible for taking care of hospice patients and supervising the hospice plan of care. They are well-trained professional doctors who prevent and relieve the suffering of terminally ill patients. Hospice physicians focus on the holistic treatment of patients, including their bodies and minds. They improve patient’s quality of life by controlling pain and other symptoms of diseases. Hospice physicians also help patients manage their physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. They will not heal the patients but ensure that they can comfortably spend the last days, months or years of their lives.
Reasons To See Hospice Care Physician
A hospice physician may help if you are diagnosed with an end-stage disease like heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, Parkinson’s disease or Alzheimer’s disease.
Medical conditions treated by hospice physicians where death is the expected result, include:
- Degenerative neurological diseases
- Severe heart and lung disease
- Liver disease
If you visit a hospice doctor during the early symptoms of the terminal illness, the hospice doctor may be able to prevent some of the most severe symptoms or side effects and improve your quality of life.
Roles Performed By The Hospice Physician
Hospice physicians specialize in caring for terminally ill patients. Their roles include emotionally supporting the patient as well as managing medical and physical health symptoms during the end-of-life stage.
Hospice physicians usually have these primary responsibilities:
- Determine when the patient is eligible for hospice care
- Supervise the patient’s hospice care team and re-certify the patient so they can continue receiving hospice care
- The hospice doctor can visit the patient as needed and consult the patient’s private doctor and other doctors in the community.
Other responsibilities and roles of hospice doctors include:
- Provide medical consultation to hospice patients
- Participate in hospice care group meetings to discuss the care plan of individual patients
- Provide education and training for hospice care workers, volunteers, patients and family members as needed
- Understand the relevant rules and regulations of state and federal entities, including health insurance hospice benefits coverage
- Provide valuable medical ethics insights to assist in complex care choices and related issues
- Participate in hospice quality assurance programs, including:
- Performance improvement
- Customer/employee satisfaction programs
- Act as a liaison between the hospice and the medical community
Involvement Of Hospice Physician In Hospice Care
Hospice doctors are a vital part of the interdisciplinary hospice team, responsible for determining the needs of patients for hospice care and making referrals. As part of the hospice care team, the hospice doctor assists the family members of the hospice patient in making sound and robust decisions related to the treatment of the patient. Other involvement of hospice physicians in hospice care includes:
Developing A Care Plan
A hospice physician understands your medical condition and understands the expectations, hopes of your family members. The hospice physician ask the patients for the following information and develop a care plan for them:
- Past medical history
- Medication history
- Social history family history
After asking about the medical history, the hospice doctor will determine your primary problem and how to deal with it. Hospice physicians are specially trained to communicate, explain and guide patients and their families during difficult times.
Provide Quality Care
At the end of life, one of the most important things we can do for a loved one is changing our perception of what it means to provide quality care. It is important to ensure that care improves the quality of life as much as possible. It means the main focus should be shifted to:
- Ensuring comfort
- Maintaining Dignity & Respect
This comfort and compassionate care is provided in hospice care. Although hospice care does require patients to stop treatment, this in no way means that their primary doctor is excluded from the decision-making process or care choices. However, when it comes to hospice care, the patient’s hospice doctor is the first to discuss the hospice plan. Early referral can help patients better cope with life-limited diagnoses and improve on their prognosis as they pass the disease stage.
Care Plan For Hospice Patient
Once referred to the hospice and the patient decides to receive care, the physician’s role is important to develop an effective care plan. The care plan must address the patient’s goals while also considering their disease and best practices for effective pain management or relieving them from the discomfort. The care plan also addresses emotional and physical needs of the patient. A physician who has a long-term relationship with the patient may provide insights about what emotional or mental challenges the person faces, how to communicate with the patient effectively and whether specific topics are susceptible to them. Good days and bad days are normal and a person may even seem to improve over time. An effective hospice provider will communicate all this information to the client’s attending physician so that they can continue to participate in treatment plans. The hospice physician may suggest changes or additions to pain medications. They may provide clear information about the normal course of the disease. The partnership between hospice medical directors, nurses, pastors, social workers, patients, their families and their primary care physicians makes hospice care a positive and empowering experience.
The neurological area of physical therapy deals with the disruption of the nervous system. Several diseases can cause such impairment, like stroke, Parkinsonism, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and epilepsy.
Physical therapists work with patients to help with mobility, body balancing, gait training, postural realignment, restoration of range of motion and safety of transfers and mobility.
Skills Of Hospice Physician
Hospice physicians must be able to apply facts and principles to problems to derive conclusions and solve problems. They must use knowledge and logic to discover patterns in events, determine causes and provide solutions.
Hospice providers must be able to communicate thoughts and ideas to determine the patient’s problems. They must also be excellent listeners and be able to ask patient questions and make the environment open and relaxing.
They must be very compassionate and be able to empathize with the patient’s pain and other difficulties. They can make people feel comfortable and meet them on their emotional level, humanize themselves and let people know they care.
Hospice physicians must be emotionally stable and be able to deal with stress effectively to help people who cannot deal with emotional situations or stress.
Patience is required, as there may be prolonged meetings with patients. They must understand that it takes time to see positive results and be willing to invest time.
People must trust you. This job is to motivate patients and spend challenging times with them. If they do not trust you, they will not respond to your treatment methods.
Education & Training
Hospice physicians’ educational path usually includes four years of medical school studies, followed by 3 to 7 years of residency in one of the main majors (first-hand experience):
- Emergency Medicine
- Family Medicine
- Internal Medicine
- Obstetrics (pregnancy) and gynecology (female reproductive health)
- Pediatrics (Children’s Health)
- Physical medicine and rehabilitation
- Psychiatry and Neurology
Then, hospice physicians take the board certification exam and receive a one-year scholarship in hospice care and palliative care sub-specialties. They take sub-professional committee certification exams to test their knowledge and can start serving as hospice doctors.