by Larry Beresford

Most hospice and palliative medicine (HPM) professionals have been asked, “How can you do this work? Isn’t it depressing?” Depressing, some folks assume, because so many of the patients die, even though it is often expected. And yet, the experiences of those in the field is, in many cases, just the opposite—many professionals in the field report feeling uplifted, gratified, and hopeful because of the difference they are able to make in the lives of patients and families. An article in the AAHPM Quarterly summarizes data from the Academy’s Physician Compensation and Benefits Survey—2010 Report, other recent research, and the personal experience of HPM physicians to conclude that this work can be extraordinarily satisfying.

As a hospice volunteer over much of the past three decades, I can confirm the personal satisfaction that comes from making a tangible contribution to patients’ quality of life at a critical time of life. But physicians working in HPM may have additional benefits and job satisfaction from the varied opportunities for team leadership, program development, teaching, and research. AAHPM’s survey documents the wide variety of roles, settings, and job titles encompassed by the field of hospice and palliative medicine.

Another resource that has compiled the personal and professional stories of 17 physicians working in hospice and palliative medicine is the HPM Practitioner, an online newsletter published by the DAI Consulting Group. Brought to the field by a wide variety of paths and interests, these committed HPM physicians detail a range of job titles, duties, and responsibilities. But in most cases, they say they can’t imagine doing anything else than their current work in this field.

Larry Beresford is a freelance medical writer from Oakland, CA, who specializes in hospice and palliative care issues.