A new generation of palliative care doctors

Posted on February 13, 2012 by


From the San Jose Mercury News, a story about a more-defined path to palliative care practice, which is resulting in increasing numbers of young doctors working with patients near the end of life:

Doctors have been informally practicing palliative medicine for decades, managing patients’ pain and symptoms alongside curative treatments for disease, and starting difficult conversations about end-of-life when treatments no longer work. Internists and oncologists learned these skills on the job or taught themselves.

Now there’s a defined path for training the new — and first official — generation of palliative care doctors.

About 12 percent of the doctors certified in hospice and palliative care in 2010 are now 36 or younger, according to the latest data available from the American Board of Medical Specialties. That percentage doubled in two years and is expected to dramatically grow under new rules that prevent older doctors from being grandfathered into the specialty. Starting this year, doctors must complete a one-year training fellowship in palliative medicine, a position that offers a meager salary that few older mid-career doctors will opt for.