Palliative Care Service

An OHSU physician assistant and social worker speak to one of their palliative care patients.

Jeff Myers (middle), a palliative care physician assistant, and Katie Hennessy, a cancer and palliative care social worker, are members of OHSU's expert palliative care teams. You do not have to stop other treatment or be terminally ill to receive palliative services.

OHSU's Palliative Care Service can help you deal with the symptoms and anxiety that often come with serious illness or injury. You do not have to stop other treatment or be terminally ill to receive our services. 

Our teams:

  • Help you relieve pain and other symptoms, improving your quality of life.
  • Support your mental health and your emotional and spiritual needs.
  • Work closely with your care team or main doctor.
  • Help you and your family with difficult medical decisions.
  • Have special training and experience providing palliative care.

Understanding palliative care

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is specialized medical care for people who have a serious illness or injury. We provide relief from symptoms and stress with the goal of improving quality of life for you and your family. Palliative care can be appropriate for patients at any age and at any stage of a serious condition.

Our providers can help you and your family better understand your situation. We can also help you discuss difficult medical decisions. 

How is palliative care different from hospice care?

  • Palliative care is intended for patients with a serious illness or injury. Our specialists can provide palliative care at the same time that you receive care to treat or cure your condition.
  • Hospice care is for people who are terminally ill. Hospice care is palliative care in the final days, weeks or months of life. It is offered when life-prolonging treatments are no longer an option or when they no longer meet the goals of a patient and family.
Two OHSU providers sit bedside with a patient and talk to him.

Sue Best, a palliative care social worker, and Dr. Tim Siegel help ease symptoms and anxiety.

Which patients benefit from palliative care?

Palliative care can help those who:

  • Have recently been diagnosed with a serious illness.
  • Have cancer or another complex condition.
  • Need care focused on providing relief from the pain, symptoms, treatment side effects and stress of a serious condition.
  • Need help understanding their condition.
  • Need help making complex medical decisions.
  • Have a complex condition that will require a long hospital stay or many hospital stays.

How does palliative care help patients and families?

Quality of life: Palliative care can relieve pain and other symptoms. It can also reduce anxiety for patients and their families. Patients can get help with:

  • Physical discomfort.
  • Emotional struggles that come with a new cancer diagnosis or advancing illness.
  • Decisions about ongoing care.
  • Help finding resources for complex home-care needs.
Effectiveness: Studies show palliative care works. A 2010 study of 151 patients with advanced lung cancer, for example, found that those given early palliative care:
  • Scored higher on measures of quality of life.
  • Were less likely to be depressed.
  • Were less likely to get aggressive chemotherapy in their final weeks.
  • Lived several months longer than those who did not get palliative care.
Other studies have shown that palliative care patients are less likely to spend time in intensive care units at the end of life. They also get more relief from the breathing difficulties that can come with lung diseases.

Our services

We provide services for patients at OHSU Hospital and in our outpatient clinic. We can provide expert treatment for:

  • Pain
  • Nausea
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Appetite loss
  • Constipation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Limited mobility
  • Other stress-related physical symptoms
We can also:
  • Help with communication among you, your family and your care team.
  • Help you and your family make difficult medical decisions at any stage of illness or injury.
  • Help you understand what to expect over the course of your illness.
  • Help with advanced care planning and decision-making.
  • Offer practical support, including information and referral to community services.
An OHSU social worker speaks with a patient.

Social worker Katie Hennessy has particular expertise in caring for cancer patients.

Our excellence

Our program has won national awards for excellent care. The doctors, nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, social workers and chaplains work together to help you and your family.

Our providers:

  • Have decades of combined experience in managing pain and side effects from treatment.
  • Have special training and certification in palliative care.
  • Work in close consultation with your other providers.
  • Have the time to talk with you in depth to understand your concerns and needs.
  • Have the expertise to help meet the emotional, spiritual and mental health needs of you and your family.

Learn more

Palliative care:

End of life care:Four providers from the OHSU Palliative Care team pose for a photo.

Our inpatient and outpatient teams include (from left) Dr. Tim Siegel), social workers Sue Best and
Katie Hennessy, and Jeff Myers, a palliative care physician assistant.


  • Palliative Care ChaplainsChi Lee, M.Div., B.C.C.
  • Deb Mecartea, M.Div., B.C.C.
  • Fernando Serna, M.Div., B.C.C.
  • Steven Straus, M.Div., B.C.C.