Palliative care leaders and advocates have been warning for years that there are too few palliative specialists to support the growing number of people diagnosed with serious illnesses – and that making sure generalist clinicians have basic palliative care skills will help fill the gap.
That solution, called primary palliative care, equips frontline clinicians such as family doctors, hospitalists, and oncologists, with deeper skills in communication, pain and symptom management, and psychosocial-spiritual support – all key domains of palliative care.
If frontline clinicians can learn and implement those skills to better support patients with serious illnesses, then specialized palliative care teams can be reserved for the most difficult and complicated cases.
But getting widespread adoption by frontline physicians, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants has been challenging, experts agree. Many resist the idea they have anything to learn. Others say they’re just too busy or can’t fit any more into squeezed primary care appointments. And many still don’t understand what palliative care is and why it’s so important.