Palliative Care Physician

Job Description


Palliative care and hospice care are not the same. A palliative care physician specializes in relieving the stress and symptoms that accompany a serious or chronic illness.

The general focus of palliative care is the improvement in the quality of life experienced by the patient and his or her family and caregivers.

Pain management and supportive services for patients and their family at the end of life is the purpose of hospice care. It is a service for those no longer seeking treatment with a cure as the goal.

Palliative care can be provided at any age and during any stage in a serious illness. Palliative care can be received at the same time as curative treatment is administered.




A palliative care physician will work with a patient and his or her family to identify, control or alleviate physical and emotional discomfort and other symptoms that often accompany a serious health condition.

Palliative care physicians focus their time on providing expert management of patients’ symptoms, in addition to holding intensive meetings with family members, and ensuring that delivery of care is coordinated across the health care setting.

Palliative care physicians are there to link patients, caregivers and family members to available support groups and other services.

They can improve access to helpful information so patients can make well-informed, confident decisions about their care.

Palliative care physicians are an integral part of an interdisciplinary team that usually includes nurses and social workers.

Other members of the team may include pharmacists, chaplains, massage therapists, nutritionists and others.

The goals of this interdisciplinary team, as outlined by the National Consensus Project for Quality Palliative Care, include:

  • Managing pain control, alleviation of psychosocial distress, provide support for spiritual concerns and meet the practical needs of the patient throughout the continuum of health care.

  • Improving a patient’s and his or her family’s access to information that can help them to understand the patient’s condition and the range of treatment options available.

  • Coordination of care across different settings by facilitating communication among providers, especially as changes occur in the patient’s condition and needs.

Interest in palliative care has seen significant growth in recent years. Palliative care is now a specialty area that physicians can choose.

As more hospitals begin or expand their palliative care programs, employment opportunities for these specialized physicians will continue to increase.




Reasoning Must be able to apply facts and principles to issues to determine conclusions and solve problems. They must use knowledge and logic to find patters in happenings and determine causes and provide solutions.
Communication Must be able to clearly convey thoughts and ideas to gauge patient issues. They must also be great listeners and ask questions that involve the patient and make the environment open and relaxed.
Empathy Must be very compassionate and able to empathize with a patient's pain and other difficulties. They are able to make people feel comfortable and meet them at their emotional level to humanize themselves and let people know they care.

Stress Management

Must be emotionally stable and deal with stress effectively, so they can help others who cannot deal with their emotions or stress. Must be a solid foundation and be able to handle stress and separate personal emotion so as to stay objective and be effective in treatment.
Ethics Must have a solid ethical code and keep sessions with patients confidential as they can greatly affect people's lives and they deal with people at extremely vulnerable times in their lives. Must know that there could be consequences for error.
Patience Need to be very patient, because of potentially long sessions with patients and while dealing with people under tremendous stress and illness. They must understand it takes time to see results and be willing to put in that time.


People have to trust you. The job is all about inspiring patients and working with them through very difficult times. If they don't trust you, they won't respond to your treatment attempts.


Working Conditions


People of all ages who are facing serious or life-threatening illness may be treated by palliative care physicians.

These physicians work with their patients and the families to identify pain sources or other areas of discomfort, and help the patient and family establish realistic goals for care.

Palliative care physicians play an integral part in the development of a patient’s comprehensive care plan.

The palliative care physician will work with the patient’s primary care physician as well as with local hospitals, nursing homes, hospice providers and assisted living facilities.

Palliative care is typically received with the patient in the hospital, but palliative care specialists will also provide services to those in need in a private practice office setting or an outpatient clinic.

Some palliative physicians will even provide services in a patient’s home.

Other roles in which a palliative care physician may participate include:

  • Generalized oversight of the palliative care team

  • Training other health care professionals in the principles of palliative care

  • Engaging in activities designed to increase aware of and availability of access to palliative care services




Salary Outlook