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Terry Altilio and Dana Ribeiro

Palliative care is a burgeoning specialty in medicine, nursing, social work and chaplaincy which privileges patient-centered, family-focused care provided across settings. Rather than a singular focus on a disease or an organ of the body, clinicians serve persons with serious illness with an approach that honors the whole person, their priorities, values and goals. In contrast to hospice care, palliative care is accessible at any point along the continuum of illness and is often provided concurrently with disease-modifying or potentially curative therapies as in the treatment of many persons with various cancers. Palliative care clinicians often work in interdisciplinary teams who collaborate with primary teams such as oncology or cardiology to identify and respond to the physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs of patients and their families. Palliative care programs are extending beyond the confines of acute care settings to venues such as outpatient clinics, home and extended care facilities. Signal events have contributed to the history, evolving role and presence of social work in this specialty. Palliative social work brings values and skills that reflect a whole person in environment perspective that is elegantly congruous with the palliative approach to care.