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UVMC Virtual Hospice Beds

5/11 Hospice Beds
Left to right: Lora Wilcher, RN, MSN, UVMC palliative care clinician, consults with Tracy Calhoun, RN, BSN, and Jill Demmitt, RN, CHPN, education liaison with Hospice of Miami County regarding the virtual hospice bed program at Upper Valley Medical Center.

Nursing and medical staff agree that the introduction of virtual hospice beds at Upper Valley Medical Center (UVMC) during the past year has enhanced end of life care.

“It’s the best for the patient all around,” said Jean Heath, director of Cancer Care at UVMC.  Heath said the program has gone well so far with the UVMC staff working closely with Hospice of Miami County.

Under the virtual hospice bed program, once a patient is determined to be an appropriate candidate for hospice care by the care team, the room can be converted for hospice care.

“We try not to move the patient, but rather convert the room to a hospice bed,” Heath said.  The beds used are in the Medical/Surgical area of the hospital and are called “virtual” because they fluctuate between use for acute care patients and the hospice patients as beds are available and as needed.

Being able to place the patient in the virtual hospice bed avoids having to physically move the patient to another facility, which can be traumatic for the patient as well as loved ones.  The closest inpatient hospice beds are an hour away from Miami County.  A number of the virtual hospice bed patients have end-stage diseases with diagnoses other than cancer alone.

Barbara Evert, M.D., said “If the patient is actively dying and the patient/family decision has been made to provide hospice care, we can now do so in the hospital.”

The census for virtual hospice beds is approximately one to two patients a day.  That number does not include hospice patients at UVMC for symptom management, said Lora Wilcher, palliative care clinician.  She added that use of a hospital bed for the end of life patient is usually 24 to 72 hours, but can vary.  Some patients are discharged from the inpatient hospice beds to home with hospice or skilled nursing facilities with hospice care.

As the palliative care clinician, Wilcher serves in a mediator role, talking with doctors, nurses, the patient and family.  Her role is varied from giving medications to staying with a family to lighten the load of the patient’s nurse and generally supporting the family to ensure all needs are met. She also provides education in end of life care. 

“I make rounds on the patients; talk with nurses and Hospice (representatives) to make sure everyone is on board with the patients individual care plan,” Wilcher said.

UVMC staff collaborates on the virtual beds program with Hospice of Miami County.  As the only local, community-based, mission-driven, no-profit hospice provider for Miami County, Hospice of Miami County can provide quality of end-of-life care at UVMC just as the organization does in patients’ homes and at area assisted living and long-term care facilities. 

“We are please to partner with UVMC to meet the care needs of these patients and the support needs of families,” said Kathy Royer RN, DMin, CHPN, Clinical Director of Hospice of Miami County.

“The virtual hospice bed program is in a learning period, still in a growing phase,” said Dr. Evert.  “Education for medical staff and nursing staff is ongoing.  We do know from responses so far that we have increased the patient and community satisfaction.”

To learn more, please contact the UVMC Cancer Care Center at (937) 440-4825 or Hospice of Miami County at (937) 335-5191.