Skip to main content

What Is Palliative Care?

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. This type of care is focused on providing patients with relief from symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis.

Improve Quality of Life

Our goal is to improve quality of life for both patients and their families. Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurse practitioners, social workers, chaplains, and other specialists who work with a patient’s other doctors to provide an extra layer of support.

Palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and can be provided together with curative treatment.


A palliative care consultation can provide for any and all of the following services:

  • Time for thorough communication in a family meeting setting
  • Expert management of pain and other symptoms
  • Help navigating the health care system
  • Guidance with difficult and complex treatment decisions
  • Emotional and spiritual support
  • Advance care planning

In collaboration with the primary team, we are able to convene family meetings to discuss the patient’s condition, treatment options, and prognosis. One of our main goals is to develop an open dialogue between patients, families, and their caregivers, which identifies and communicates the patient’s achievable goals of care and assists to translate those goals into the specific treatment plan.

Palliative care can have a significant impact even while curative or disease-controlling treatments are still in process.

Find a Palliative Care Specialist

Related Specialists

Rev Lorie Nielson

Rev Lorie Nielson is a staff chaplain at University of Utah Hospital. She brings her adventurous spirit and love for the natural world, including people, into her work as a hospital chaplain. Her decades of experience in classical yoga and meditation evolved into Buddhist chaplain studies in Santa Fe, Berkeley and New York City. She has returned to the Wasatch where she now serves as an interfaith chaplain and as part of the Palliative Care team. She is passionate about living a life of engaged spirituality, holding sacred space for staff, patients, families, volunteers and medical learners, and exploring the wisdom of the stories we hold in our bodies.

Julie McDaniel

Julie McDaniel is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with the University of Utah Supportive and Palliative Care Service. She received a Bachelor of Art in Speech Communication, a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and a Master of Social Work from the University of Utah. While pursuing her master’s degree, Julie discovered her passion for grief work while completing internships with hospice care and at Primary Children’s Hospital Rainbow Kids Palliative Care. Julie finds great reward in advocating for patient’s self-determination and exploring creative ways to support mental health in a medical setting. Prior to becoming a social worker, Julie worked at the University of Utah Hospital and Huntsman Mental Health Institute in various administrative roles. When not working, she enjoys spending time with her two children and spouse, playing music, yoga, gardening and dancing.

The End of Her Days

One writer's cautionary story about how his mother-in-law's stroke and fight to die on her own terms, taught him the importance–and limitations–of Advance Directives.

Read Stephen's Story

Frequently Asked Questions

How Do You Get Palliative Care?

Ask your doctor to put you in touch with the palliative care team. A palliative care team includes a doctor, nurse practitioner, social worker, and chaplain with special training. The team works with you and all your health care providers to give you extra help during your illness.

Who Can Be Helped by Palliative Care?

Palliative care may be beneficial to anyone with a serious illness or health problem. Even kids can be helped by palliative care.

When Can you Get Palliative Care?

You can get palliative care as soon as you are told about your serious illness or health problem. These illnesses can include heart, lung, kidney or liver failure, cancer, and some memory or neurologic problems. Palliative care can be given at the same time you are being treated to cure your illness.

Is Palliative Care the Same as Hospice Care?

Hospice care is a type of palliative care, but palliative care is much broader than hospice. You can receive palliative care for many years, but hospice care begins in the final months of life. Both include a team of care providers to help the patient and support the family.

Can a Family Member of Friend Help With Your Care?

Yes. You have the right to have a personal representative, or advocate, with you when you get treatment and services. Tell your providers who your advocate is. Also tell them what information you would like shared with your advocate.

Are Services and Support Offered to Your Family and Friends? 

Yes. Your palliative care team can teach your family and friends how to care for you. They can also provide emotional support to your family and friends throughout your illness.

How Will You Pay for Palliative Care?

Palliative care is often covered by insurance and government programs.

What Questions Might the Palliative Care Providers Ask You?

  • Do you have questions about your illness or health problem?
  • Do you know what your treatment choices are? Do you need to have the choices explained?
  • What are your needs and wishes for care?
  • How do you want to make decisions about your care?
  • Do you have any symptoms that are bothering you right now?
  • What can we do to make you more comfortable?
  • What gives meaning to your life?
  • How can we help you and your family cope with the changes caused by your illness? Do you and your family need emotional support?
  • Do you have a health care power of attorney? If you do not have one, a palliative care provider can help you write down your wishes.
  • Would you like to receive spiritual help? Many people find that speaking with a chaplain helps them cope with their illness.

What Questions Should You Ask Your Palliative Care Providers?

  • What services do you provide? What are the costs of the services?
  • Are they certified/licensed?
  • Is staff available 24 hours a day, seven days a week?
  • Who is the main contact person on the team? How do you reach that person? How often will you talk with them?
  • How will they create your palliative care treatment plan? Do they welcome ideas from you and your family about the plan?
  • How do they work with your regular doctor and other care providers?
  • What can they do to help make your daily life easier? For example, can they recommend a support group or help with transportation? Can they visit you at home?
  • Can they provide pain medicines that you cannot get over-the-counter?
  • Can they provide an interpreter?
  • Do they offer treatments such as massage or music therapy?
  • How will your personal, religious, or cultural beliefs be addressed?
  • Can someone from your faith work with the palliative care chaplain to make sure your spiritual needs are met?

Where Can You Get Palliative Care? 

Palliative care can be provided in hospitals, clinics, hospices, nursing homes, and your home. Ask:

  • Where are palliative care services provided in your area?
  • Can you get palliative care services in a place that is convenient for you?
  • What happens if you have to move from your home to the hospital, nursing home or other location?

Where Can You Find More Information?

Who Makes Up Your Administrative Team? 

  • Cari Low, Medical Director
  • Holli Martinez, Program Director
  • Meredith Bannon, SOS Team Lead
  • Mindy Rose, Program Coordinator

Patient & Family Information

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses. This type of care is focused on providing patients with relief from symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis.

Doctors and nurse practitioners, along with colleagues in social work and chaplaincy, make up the palliative care team at University of Utah Health. Palliative care is holistic and interdisciplinary in its focus.

A consultation from a palliative care specialist can assist you in dealing with the following:

  • Breathing problems
  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Depression
  • Exhaustion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sleeping problems
  • Spiritual and emotional support

It can also help with these additional needs:

  • Decision making
  • Managing your health care
  • Planning the future
  • Recommending financial resources
  • Supporting family members

*From Speak Up, The Joint Commission “What you need to know about your serious illness and PC.”


Supportive Oncology & Survivorship

Find Out More