Symptom Management and Communication Needs To Be Focus

The spread of COVID-19 virus is not only causing infection, but also panic and fear. In palliative care, we know only too well how challenging it is for patients and families to confront uncertain outcomes due to serious illness. The skills that palliative care clinicians use at the bedside–symptom management, skilled communication (e.g., listening, curiosity about what people are feeling, compassionate support for priority-setting), and a calm presence–are the same skills that all clinicians need now to support patients, families, and one-another as we navigate the crisis.

Because those living with pre-existing serious illness are in the highest risk group with COVID-19, they and their loved ones are not only particularly vulnerable but also particularly stressed by the current situation. Palliative care specialists are experts in symptom management and skilled communication, and these skills are essential if we are to mitigate suffering among all people seriously ill with COVID-19 including the majority of patients who will survive the disease.

“About four in ten adults (41%) in the U.S. (105.5 million people) have a higher risk of developing serious illness if they are infected with coronavirus, according to Kaiser Family Foundation estimates. So we must strategize how best to assure meticulous attention to symptom distress and skilled communication for all people with serious illness whether due to COVID-19 or other illness,” said Dr. Diane Meier, director of the Center to Advance Palliative Care. “Palliative care teams were a scarce resource before this pandemic, so it is essential that we deploy our expertise in a manner that reaches the largest numbers of patients in need. We therefore urge all clinicians in all disciplines and specialties across our health care system to rapidly enhance and deploy their skills in communication and symptom management.”

CAPC has opened its paywall to essential COVID-19 tools and technical assistance for all clinicians. It is free and open-access:

It’s everybody’s job.

About the Center to Advance Palliative Care
The Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) is a national organization dedicated to increasing the availability of quality health care for people living with a serious illness. As the nation’s leading resource in its field, CAPC provides health care professionals and organizations with the training, tools, and technical assistance necessary to effectively meet this need. CAPC is part of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.

To arrange an interview, please contact John Zoccola @ [email protected] or 267.664.2759.

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