A Collaborative Approach to Care

When someone we love is diagnosed with a life-threatening condition, comfort and quality of life are paramount. 

“Many physicians and providers have not been trained to discuss end-of-life issues. The amazing Hospice and Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley team facilitates what can be a challenging conversation,” says Deborah Robertson, MD, St. Luke’s Wood River Emergency Department Director and Foundation Board Member. 

“I refer patients that could benefit from palliative care to the hospice group when I see that it could improve their quality of life and sense that they are currently going through their struggles alone,” agrees Terry O’Connor, MD emergency physician and Blaine County Emergency Services Medical Director. “They provide an invaluable resource to our community.” 

It’s a unique relationship beyond the traditional roles of hospice, and it has evolved from a strong alliance between the hospital and hospice made possible in large part through St. Luke’s Wood River Foundation’s longtime investment in the partnership. 

When an existing hospice patient requires emergency or inpatient care, a hospice nurse typically accompanies them to the hospital, providing invaluable background information for the providers. The nurse also interfaces with the patient and family to help make treatment decisions.

“In my earlier years as an emergency physician, the general feeling was that we did not have time to have these types of conversations with families,” Dr. Robertson says. “Sometimes, when the time is taken to discuss options such as maximum care versus comfort measures, the patient just wants to know they will not be in pain.”

All the staff at Hospice and Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley are registered nurses trained in bereavement and psycho-social support to meet the complex physical, emotional and future bereavement needs that a death may cause. 

“We are solely focused on the family’s needs,” says Lisa Wild, executive director of Hospice and Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley. “Each situation is unique, requiring its own adaptation of what is helpful for each family.”

As the Hospice and Palliative Care of the Wood River Valley does not bill insurance companies for their services, they are not obligated by the usual restrictions that Medicare and private carriers impose on hospice services such as a life expectancy of six months or less. 

“It is very unusual in most communities that the hospice teams respond to sudden deaths in the emergency department like we do at St. Luke’s Wood River,” Lisa says. “This relationship has proven symbiotic between the hospital and us.”

Hospice also provides follow-up care for families, which includes bereavement support. This collaborative dynamic among foundation, hospital and hospice ensures that our community receives the best possible care in very difficult situations.