On July 18, I was privileged to accompany Cathy Hamel, Gilchrist Hospice Care’s executive director as she accepted a prestigious national honor on behalf of the Gilchrist community, the 2011 Circle of Life Award from the American Hospital Association.
In San Diego, surrounded by leaders in the movement to improve hospice access and care through innovation, I was humbled by the words of praise for the work our entire organization – clinicians, administrative staff and volunteers – does each and every day to ensure that our patients are able to approach the end of life in comfort and with dignity.
For the past 17 years, Gilchrist has experienced steady growth. We were founded as a home hospice organization for adults and have since added two inpatient centers, care teams in nursing homes and other facilities and a children’s hospice program to the care we provide.
From our humble beginnings, we have grown to an organization with more than 300 employees and nearly 400 volunteers, all dedicated to providing the finest in end of life care for the more than 600 patients that we are privileged to care for each and every day, and support for the loved ones they will leave behind.
The Circle of Life Award recognizes both our exemplary program overall and our recent cutting edge innovations in the effort to assist a particularly vulnerable patient population – elderly individuals with chronic or life-limiting conditions – throughout their medical journeys.
Last year, the geriatrics practice at Greater Baltimore Medical Center was reorganized into Gilchrist Greater Living, a geriatrics and palliative medicine practice dedicated to following patients through the continuum of care: from office visits to emergency hospital stays to long-term stays in nursing homes or shorter stints in rehabilitation and, ultimately, to hospice.
The physicians and nurse practitioners with Gilchrist Greater Living direct the medical care on several fronts. They are an integral part of our practice, overseeing the care of our patients both at home and at our two inpatient centers. They oversee care on units that predominantly serve an elderly population at GBMC. They see patients in the office. And they direct the care at nearly two dozen nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Central Maryland.
What that means for their patients is that the same team of physicians will be with them at all points in their interaction with the medical community, that their “patient stories” and wishes for care will follow them from one care setting to another and that the care they receive will be comprehensive and coordinated throughout.
For patients, this will result in better and more cohesive care. As for Gilchrist, it will allow us to bring our unique brand of compassionate end of life care to more patients earlier in their medical journey so that they may receive the full benefit that hospice care has to offer.
For complete information about the Circle of Life Award winners, read the American Hospital Association’s full press release. If you are interested in learning more about Gilchrist Greater Living, visit gilchristhospice.org/greater_living or call 443.849.8200.