Physician holding patients hand.

Palliative Medicine and Supportive Care

The issues surrounding a serious illness can be difficult to manage. Palliative Care can add another layer of support.

What is palliative care?

Palliative care, also known as palliative medicine, is about improving quality of life, providing an extra layer of support and having a team focus on patient care when facing a serious illness.

Palliative care services aim to improve quality of life by relieving the symptoms associated with serious illness. It can begin at any stage of a life-altering illness to help people:

  • Live with illness
  • Manage the effects of aggressive, curative treatment
  • Find ways to handle day-to-day challenges

Palliative care can help shift the medical approach from crisis intervention to crisis prevention; for example, good symptom management may help avoid an unwanted hospitalization.

Palliative care also aims to provide support for you and your loved ones as you face the uncertainty that comes with serious illness. Whether it's questions about your treatment choices or advance care planning, we partner with you and your family to navigate your care.

Why choose Northwestern Medicine for palliative care?

If you have cancer, heart disease, heart failure, kidney failure, chronic liver diseasemultiple sclerosis, ALS, COPD or emphysema, or any other serious illness, uncontrolled symptoms can hinder your body’s ability to heal. The board-certified Northwestern Medicine Palliative Care specialists:

  • Work with your treatment team and caregivers to provide an extra layer of support to help you find relief from symptoms, pain and stress
  • Provide care and assistance for a broad range of physical, emotional, spiritual and social concerns that you and your loved ones may face

Palliative Medicine and Supportive Care Program

A serious illness, and the treatment it requires, can result in a wide array of symptoms and side effects that challenge your body, mind and spirit. Northwestern Medicine is home to palliative care specialists to help meet your distinct needs.

This highly skilled team* includes:

  • Physicians
  • Social workers
  • Advanced practice nurses
  • Therapists
  • Registered nurses
  • Chaplains
  • Child life specialists
  • Pharmacists

Our program can make a world of difference in how you live your life. It can also provide assistance for those who care for you. Help is available for:

  • Physical and emotional symptoms: You can find relief from pain, nausea, anxiety, fatigue, depression, shortness of breath, constipation, loss of appetite and other symptoms that may result from a serious illness, or as a side effect of medical treatment.
  • Communication: Whether you need help understanding test results or communicating your care needs and goals to a family member, an objective professional can open the doors to better communication—giving you clarity and comfort.
  • Outside resources: Many resources are available to help you sort through your options and pinpoint those that will benefit you most.
  • Caregiver needs: Since those closest to you often need assistance too, palliative medicine team members are available to offer emotional and spiritual support, and help you access resources in the community and at home.


We strive to meet you and your loved ones, wherever you are in the course of an illness. Our program offers services to suit the needs of all patients, including:

  • Outpatient Clinic: Visits can often be coordinated on the same day as visits to your primary Northwestern Medicine physician or specialty clinic. 
  • Inpatient Consultation: At the request of your physician, you, or your loved ones, we will evaluate and help manage complex symptoms and help support your decision-making when it comes to serious illness and possible treatment options. When the time comes for discharge from the hospital, we'll help you connect with ongoing services in the clinic, at home, or in a nursing facility.
  • Home Hospice: If and when the time comes to focus on comfort care closer to the end of life, we partner with several preferred provider agencies to provide comprehensive hospice care. Even if you live in an area not served by one of these agencies, or prefer another hospice provider, we will work with you to ensure as safe and comfortable a transition as possible.

Palliative care is often covered by most insurance plans.

If you think you or someone you love would benefit from the Northwestern Medicine Palliative Medicine and Supportive Care Program, talk to your physician today. You can also read Frequently Asked Questions about Northwestern Medicine Palliative Care.

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    In the spirit of keeping you well-informed, some of the physician(s) and/or individual(s) identified are neither agents nor employees of Northwestern Memorial HealthCare or any of its affiliate organizations. They have selected our facilities as places where they want to treat and care for their private patients.