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Palliative care in the emergency department 

Palliative care in the emergency department
Palliative care in the emergency department

Paul L. DeSandre

and Karen May

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date: 16 May 2022

The emergency department provides immediate access to medical care for patients and families in crisis. As the proportion of elderly in our populations increases, complications related to advanced illness will likely drive increasing numbers of patients with palliative care needs into emergency departments. In addition to immediately life-threatening situations, severe physical symptoms, psychological distress, social upheaval, or even an unrecognized spiritual crisis near death can overwhelm patients or their caregivers, who come to the emergency department hoping for relief from their suffering. Emergency clinicians must rapidly assess these complex needs while negotiating interventions with effective and efficient communications. This chapter addresses several of these essential clinician skills for effective primary palliative care in the emergency department. These include rapid assessment of patients with palliative care needs, titration of opioids for pain emergencies, efficiently establishing goals of care, skilful and empathic death disclosure, and a structured approach to involving family presence during cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

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