Coming Together in Times of Crisis: COVID-19 Pandemic Has Underscored Need for Palliative Care

When I wrote a blog on the role of palliative care in the unfolding pandemic on March 11, the U.S. had confirmed 1,281 cases of COVID-19 and 36 deaths from the virus; today, a little over 2 months later, we have confirmed more than 1.5 million cases and are on track to hit 100,000 deaths by June 1.

Through it all, palliative care has been front and center.

All aspects of living and dying and caregiving and grieving have been upended and turned inside out in just these few weeks. Within days of my writing the blog, our staff dispersed to remote work, learning to juggle the already huge demands of our work with homeschooling, caregiving, and the high anxiety attached to every sniffle and every trip to the grocery store.

At the same time, we welcomed new staff members and launched an ambitious response to the COVID-19 crisis by making two dozen of our courses and several eBook resources available at no charge to frontline clinicians. We also launched a free six-session open forum on telemedicine with ResolutionCare Network’s Michael Fratkin and Brian Mistler, with generous support from the California Health Care Foundation.

All together, we reached more than 5,000 enrollments in these offerings!

While we struggle with wiping down milk cartons and remembering algebra on top of work, healthcare professionals are risking their lives. It is for them – for YOU – that we rise to our modest challenges every day.

As we hear from you in our courses, conversations, emails, blogs, and Zooms, I am at turns horrified at the suffering, frightened by the risks and chaos, inspired by your courage and compassion, and – even – exhilarated by the opportunities opening up for palliative care to more fully come in to its own.

You are on the front lines. We are in the supply lines. We are – to cop a cliché – all in this together.

Jennifer Moore Ballentine is the Executive Director of the California State University Shiley Institute for Palliative Care.

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