How Hospice Began

The 20th century saw the fast development of medicine and medical intervention. Alongside this incredible advancement came the assumption that medicine could cure anything—and the refusal to believe that something is incurable. For most of medical history, however, palliative care and relief from suffering was not just the norm but the only option. Though medical advancements have lengthened the life expectancy of people, terminal illness and death will always be with us. As Dr. Skip McGovern—co-founder of Green Bay Oncology—puts it, the end of life is a fundamental truth of the human experience. What probably matters more is the quality of our lives as we move toward the final chapters of our years.

Skip joins us in this episode to explore the history of hospice care and how it became a unique medical specialty in the modern age. We describe the hospice movement’s role in caring for the terminally ill and the impact of hospice care on reducing hospital inpatient numbers. We discuss why empathetic listening and advocating for patients are important skills palliative care physicians need to have. We also highlight the role of nurses and nurse assistants in providing hospice care and illustrate how hospice and palliative services provide support not only to patients but also to their loved ones.

“We have to offer patients an end to their suffering, which might include pain, emotional, or spiritual suffering.
We have to provide support not only to the patient but also to their loved ones.” – Dr. Skip McGovern

This week on Cancer Covered:

  • How rapid changes in the 20th century led to high expectations for miraculous cures
  • How the advancement of medicine may have impacted palliative care
  • The roots and early history of hospice
  • The AIDS epidemic and the Lazarus effect
  • How nurses saw the critical need for intensive care for terminally ill patients
  • How hospice care has expanded to include pastoral care and social work support
  • The important role of certified nurse assistants in hospice care
  • The American Medicare hospice benefit
  • Shifts in physician attitudes toward hospice care
  • The necessary skills for palliative care physicians
  • Patient advocacy in palliative and hospice care
  • How palliative medicine and hospice medicine became a specialty
  • Switching from focusing on quantitative data to a more qualitative approach in patient care
  • The public’s perception of hospice and resistant attitudes toward end-of-life care
  • The timing of hospice enrollment and the conflict between early hospice enrollment and continued medical interventions
  • The role of hospice in improving patients\’ quality of life and supporting families

Related Episodes:

  • Our Mission
  • Cancer Care Then & Now

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