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GeriPal - A Geriatrics and Palliative Care Podcast

Mar 23, 2020

Many of us with clinical roles are waiting for the other shoe to drop. Today we hear from Dr. Darrell Owens, DNP, MSN, head of palliative care for the University of Washington's Northwest campus, a community hospital in Seattle. The UW Northwest hospital has born the brunt of the COVID epidemic in one of our nation's hardest hit areas. Darrell has stepped up the the plate in remarkable, aspirational ways. First, he is on call 24/7 to have goals of care conversations with elderly patients in the emergency department under investigation for COVID who do not have an established a code status. On the podcast Darrell walks us through the language he uses to speak with these patients about the poor outcomes of CPR and ventilation among older adults with COVID. We note on the podcast that the Center to Advance Palliative Care recently put together Toolkit for COVID including a thoughtful communication guide spearheaded by Tony Back and our friends at VitalTalk. Second, Darrell has established an inpatient palliative care service at his hospital for patients on exclusively comfort measures. Darrell and his team admit and are first call for these patients. This service off-loads the hospitalists so they can care for other patients. Darrell talks with us about the challenges of titrating medications for symptomatic patients when you're trying to minimize using protective equipment going in and out of the room, and the challenges of returning home from work to his family after treating patients with COVID all day. By closing let me repeat two things from the podcast. First, we too can and should step up to the plate. By engaging patients in goals of care discussion at the time of admission we are likely to help patients reach different decisions than they otherwise might have made had discussions occurred with rushed and less skilled clinicians (i.e. the usual code status discussion). Before we get to rationing, we can and should engage patients in the highest quality informed goals of care discussions. The results of these informed discussions are likely to decrease the need for scarce ICU beds and ventilators. That is why Darrell is specifically on call for these conversations. Simply put, we do it better. We have the best skill. Further, like Darrell, we too can create or expand inpatient palliative care services to provide the best possible care for these patients and free up hospitalists and others to meet the growing clinical needs due to the pandemic. Second, Eric and I have never been prouder of our fields. Every day we hear stories of geriatricians, palliative care clinicians, and bioethicists rising to the occasion to meet needs of this moment. As Eric notes, we will found out a great deal about ourselves and what we stand for these next few weeks and months. Thank you for all that you do. -@AlexSmithMD