The prescription calls for palliative care

July 27, 2020

So many teams at Texas Children’s have stepped up in remarkable ways since the COVID-19 pandemic began. The Section of Palliative Care (Pediatric Advanced Care Team) is no different. In fact, this often unsung group has proven its value like never before as families desire more connection, enhanced communication and extended conversation.

The multidisciplinary team of 23 serves Medical Center Campus, West Campus and The Woodlands hospitals.

“We provide an extra layer of support for families and patients who are going through an illness,” said Claire Crawford, palliative care social worker. “We help with non-verbal expressions of compassion in the absence of touch, which has been in exceptionally high demand since the pandemic began.”

Crawford adds that with new visitation guidelines, parents are often alone when they receive news that’s hard to hear. Therefore, there is a need for even more support. “On top of that, our nurses and doctors are often delivering this news while wearing masks, goggles and other protective equipment so it is even more challenging for them to convey their empathy. This is where we come in.”

Crawford says the team can consult with other health care workers to ensure that dialogue with families is compassionate and connective.

In addition, the goals of the department are to:

  • Provide emotional support for children and families
  • Provide support for difficult hospitalizations
  • Manage distressing symptoms
  • Engage social work resources
  • Help families make difficult decisions
  • Refer to supportive therapies (psychology, music therapy, art therapy, and Pawsitive Play) for patients
  • Enhance quality of life
  • Utilize integrative medicine techniques
Doesn’t palliative care mean “end of life?”

One of the department’s main goals is to educate our patient population on their role and to debunk the myth that palliative care always means that a child may die. “It is true that our services in an adult setting often do mean that the end of life is near, but that is far less the case in a pediatric setting,” said Crawford. “Of course, there are times when we do need do have those discussions, but we are working hard to make sure that when parents hear our name they don’t automatically assume the worst.”

A Texas Children’s dream team

This all-star team is led by Dr. Tammy Kang, section chief of Palliative Care and consists of palliative care specialists, including:

  • Doctors
  • Nurses and nurse practitioners
  • Social workers
  • Chaplain
  • Grief and bereavement specialist
  • Administrators
  • Psychologist
  • Researchers

Crawford said the success of the team is built on respect for one another, friendship and an unyielding dedication to provide the best care to patients.