Children’s Palliative Care FAQ and Resources

A group photo of OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital's Pediatric Palliatice Care team.
Team members are (from left): Medical Director Dr. Robert Macauley; palliative pediatric nurse Monica Holland; Dr. Sara Taub; clinical interfaith chaplain Anat LeBlanc; social worker Lindsay Wooster-Halberg; program director and pediatric nurse practitioner Kathy Perko; and Dr. Tyler Tate.

The Bridges Pediatric Palliative Care Program at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital provides sensitive care for seriously ill children.

Here are answers to common questions. See our Bridges Program main page to learn more about our services and expert care.

If your care team refers you to the Bridges Program, one or more of our team members will contact you. We’ll introduce our services and answer any early questions. 

Next, we’ll schedule a meeting to get to know your child and family.  We’ll ask:

  • About caregiving routines
  • About your child’s interests
  • What’s important to your family
  • What you hope for
  • Whether your family struggles with any part of your child’s care

As we get to know you, we’ll work with you to develop a plan for how our team can help you care for your child.

A range of children and families can benefit from our palliative support. They include children who:

  • Have a serious condition that may or may not be cured.
  • Have a condition with no cure but who, with treatment, may have a longer life and better quality of life.
  • Have a condition that’s not expected to get worse but that can come with life-limiting complications.
  • Were born extremely early.

Yes. We know how important it is to keep strong relationships with your child’s trusted providers. Our specialists work in coordination with your child’s established care team, whether at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital or another hospital.

No, it doesn’t. However, we know that parents caring for a child with a serious condition have both hopes and worries about their child’s future. We bring years of experience supporting families in this situation.

If your child is nearing the end of life, we will help you make a plan based on your values. We may recommend hospice care, a specific type of palliative care for the last months of life. We will work with you to arrange details.

Yes. We partner with hospitals and hospice agencies in Portland, southwest Washington, western Idaho and sometimes beyond.

  • Palliative care for children is newer than for adults. The Bridges Program, started in 2001, is the largest in Oregon. It offers providers with uncommon expertise.
  • Our team recognizes that parents face making complex decisions while also caring for and parenting their child. We work to support your whole family.
  • We understand that your child’s developmental stage plays a big role in how you and your family cope. We can offer support to help you discuss serious illness with your child and your other children.
  • If we recommend hospice care, your child does not need to end other treatments. Your child can receive hospice care alongside treatment for her illness.

Many parents worry about how to support their other children while parenting a child with a serious illness. Our team will provide support and resources to help you answer difficult questions from your child’s siblings.

If your child is nearing the end of life, we can help you prepare based on what’s most important to your child and family. Some families prefer to be home to make the most of their time as a family and to avoid invasive procedures. Others prefer to return to the hospital so parents can focus on being parents. Either way, the Bridges team will support your family and work to keep your child comfortable.

A health care provider sitting bedside next to a child patient as she pretends to give a stuffed animal its shot.
Jan Crider, M.A., a child life specialist at Doernbecher, can explain medical procedures
using a stuffed animal. Child life specialists often work with our palliative care providers.



Support and bereavement

Advance planning

Oregon POLST (Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment) offers resources for end-of-life planning, if needed. Often, this type of planning it more relevant for adults making their own health care decisions.

For families

Please talk with your child’s care team if you have questions or interest in the Bridges Program.

Refer a patient

The Bridges Pediatric Palliative Care Program is a referral center for patients throughout Oregon.

Refer your patient to OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital.