OHSU's Palliative Care Service can help you deal with the symptoms and anxiety that often come with serious illness or injury. You do not have to stop other treatment or be terminally ill to receive our services.
- Help you relieve pain and other symptoms, improving your quality of life.
- Support your mental health and your emotional and spiritual needs.
- Work closely with your care team or main doctor.
- Help you and your family with difficult medical decisions.
- Have special training and experience providing palliative care.
Understanding palliative care
What is palliative care?
Palliative care is specialized medical care for people who have a serious illness or injury. We provide relief from symptoms and stress with the goal of improving quality of life for you and your family. Palliative care can be appropriate for patients at any age and at any stage of a serious condition.
Our providers can help you and your family better understand your situation. We can also help you discuss difficult medical decisions.
How is palliative care different from hospice care?
- Palliative care is intended for patients with a serious illness or injury. Our specialists can provide palliative care at the same time that you receive care to treat or cure your condition.
- Hospice care is for people who are terminally ill. Hospice care is palliative care in the final days, weeks or months of life. It is offered when life-prolonging treatments are no longer an option or when they no longer meet the goals of a patient and family.
Which patients benefit from palliative care?
Palliative care can help those who:
- Have recently been diagnosed with a serious illness.
- Have cancer or another complex condition.
- Need care focused on providing relief from the pain, symptoms, treatment side effects and stress of a serious condition.
- Need help understanding their condition.
- Need help making complex medical decisions.
- Have a complex condition that will require a long hospital stay or many hospital stays.
How does palliative care help patients and families?
Quality of life: Palliative care can relieve pain and other symptoms. It can also reduce anxiety for patients and their families. Patients can get help with:
- Physical discomfort.
- Emotional struggles that come with a new cancer diagnosis or advancing illness.
- Decisions about ongoing care.
- Help finding resources for complex home-care needs.
Effectiveness: Studies show palliative care works. A 2010 study of 151 patients with advanced lung cancer, for example, found that those given early palliative care:
- Scored higher on measures of quality of life.
- Were less likely to be depressed.
- Were less likely to get aggressive chemotherapy in their final weeks.
- Lived several months longer than those who did not get palliative care.
Other studies have shown that palliative care patients are less likely to spend time in intensive care units at the end of life. They also get more relief from the breathing difficulties that can come with lung diseases.
Our program has won national awards for excellent care. The doctors, nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, social workers and chaplains work together to help you and your family.
- Have decades of combined experience in managing pain and side effects from treatment.
- Have special training and certification in palliative care.
- Work in close consultation with your other providers.
- Have the time to talk with you in depth to understand your concerns and needs.
- Have the expertise to help meet the emotional, spiritual and mental health needs of you and your family.
We provide services for patients at OHSU Hospital and in our outpatient clinic. We can provide expert treatment for:
- Trouble sleeping
- Appetite loss
- Shortness of breath
- Limited mobility
- Other stress-related physical symptoms
We can also:
- Help with communication among you, your family and your care team.
- Help you and your family make difficult medical decisions at any stage of illness or injury.
- Help you understand what to expect over the course of your illness.
- Help with advanced care planning and decision-making.
- Offer practical support, including information and referral to community services.
- Pain and Palliative Care, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center
- Palliative Care Truths and Myths, National Institutes of Health Clinical Center
- Get Palliative Care, an organization with resources for patients, families, providers and others
- Palliative Care Questions and Answers, National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization
- Palliative Care: The Relief You Need When You Have a Serious Illness, National Institute of Nursing Research
- Palliative Care in Cancer, National Cancer Institute
End of life care:
- Video: "POLST: When is the Right Time?" This short video illustrates the value of having a POLST (physician's orders for life-sustaining treatment).
- Oregon POLST Program: Learn more about having a POLST for end-of-life care.
- Office of End-of-Life and Palliative Care Research, National Institute of Nursing Research
For patients and families
Care in the hospital: Talk with your care team about whether palliative care is right for you.
Outpatient care: Ask your OHSU provider for a referral. You can call 503-494-6594.
Our outpatient clinic is at:
Center for Health & Healing Building 2
3485 S.W. Bond Ave.
Portland, OR 97239
Map and directions
Palliative care for children
Learn about our Bridges palliative care program at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital.
Section chief, palliative care
Fellowship program director, hospice and palliative medicine
Director of symptom science
- Shannon Appy, M.D.
- Megan Dorwin, M.S.W.
- Sarah Espe, M.N.
- Chi Yun, M.Div., BCC
- Deb Mecartea, M.Div., BCC
- Fernando Serna, M.Div., BCC
- Steven Straus, M.Div., BCC