UAMS Palliative Care Program Receives National Certification

By Nate Hinkel

The UAMS Palliative Care Program focuses on improving the overall quality of life for patients and families facing serious illness. The program provides patient- and family-centered care; pain and symptom management; interdisciplinary support for social, emotional and spiritual issues associated with serious illnesses; and coordinated care across hospital, clinic and home settings.

Sarah Beth Harrington, M.D., leads the program, which includes four other physicians, a fellow, a registered nurse, social worker, chaplain and a chaplain resident. The team saw 236 inpatients in 2008 and more than 1,100 in 2012
“The program has seen significant growth during the last five years,” Harrington said. “Our palliative care program is integrated throughout the hospital. We have about 25 patients at a time, and of those about one-third are in our intensive care units, 60 percent have cancer, and about 70 percent are younger than 65.”

Unlike hospice, which is for end-of-life care, the UAMS Palliative Care Program focuses on bringing experts together to coordinate care for patients with serious diagnoses to relieve their pain, anxiety, nausea and stress, and help them navigate the health care system and coordinate their care. It helps patients and their families prioritize needs and helps ensure that patients get the right care at the right time.

“This often means that they are able to go home sooner, and even live longer,” Harrington said.

“The surveyor was highly complementary of our program,” said Donna Baas, director of accreditation and compliance at the UAMS Medical Center. “There was tremendous support from faculty and staff across disciplines, and it was clear from the beginning that everyone was engaged and enthusiastic about the program Dr. Harrington and her team has developed.”

“Accreditation by The Joint Commission is a ‘seal of approval’ that indicates our Palliative Care Program meets stringent performance standards,” Baas said. “This accreditation signifies the highest standard of patient care, business processes and staff education.”

The UAMS Palliative Care Program joins the UAMS Stroke Program as achieving advance certification status through the Joint Commission.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and seven institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute, the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging and the Translational Research Institute. Named best Little Rock metropolitan area hospital by U.S. News & World Report, it is the only adult Level 1 trauma center in the state. UAMS has more than 2,800 students and 790 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including about 1,000 physicians and other professionals who provide care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS regional centers throughout the state. Visit or