SVMC Introduces Supportive Care

March 12, 2015

BENNINGTON—March 12, 2015—A new program from Southwestern Vermont Medical Center will help reduce the stress and strain that life-threatening illness puts on patients and families. The Supportive Care Program, launched earlier this year, is designed to improve the quality of life for patients with serious illness even while patients seek treatments to cure a disease or illness.

“It’s about providing quality care, improving patient satisfaction, and avoiding unnecessary or undesired treatments,” said Allen Hutcheson, MD, the director of the program.

Supportive care is also called palliative care. It is sometimes confused with hospice or “end of life care.” Unlike end-of-life care, Supportive Care starts at diagnosis and can be received at the same time as treatment. The illnesses of those who participate are not necessarily terminal.

The specialists involved in patients’ care focus on overcoming the illness. Supportive Care focuses on patients, their families, and even their environment. It addresses challenges like symptom control, the effects of treatment, pain management, and psychological, emotional, and spiritual support.

The Supportive Care team meets with patients in a variety of settings: at the hospital, at their specialist’s office, and at the nursing home or rehabilitation center.

“During the first visits we discuss the concerns of the patient and family, and look for ways to improve symptoms and quality of life,” Hutcheson said.

The Supportive Care team may talk with doctors involved with the patient’s care and hold a family meeting to clarify treatment options, help patients and families cope with changes in daily activities and get extra support, or assist with emotional and spiritual needs.

“The service connects patients with the resources they need and minimizes the disruption of life from illness or treatment,” said Rebecca Andrews, the program nurse.

Many of those who participate have been diagnosed with cancer.

“This program complements the Cancer Center’s treatment. We knew it was a program we needed. It is such an important part of providing well-rounded care,” said Wendy Petitt, the manager of the Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center.

Yet, it extends beyond the Cancer Center and even beyond the hospital.

“It is community wide,” said Hutcheson. “We go to patients’ homes, to nursing homes. We try to make receiving supportive care as convenient as possible for the patient.”

In addition to helping patients manage their symptoms and get the support they need, the program provides patients with the information to make good decisions for themselves. This aspect helps patients avoid the effects and costs of undesired treatments.

“Your doctor is there to focus on your illness and to offer suggestions for the best possible outcome. Supportive Care is there to focus on you and your family. We help you maintain your quality of life throughout your treatment,” said Hutcheson.

For more information about SVMC Supportive Care, visit or call 802-447-1836. If you think you could use Supportive Care to manage a serious illness, ask your primary care provider or specialist for a referral.

SVMC is a full-service community hospital that is part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care (SVHC), an integrated health system serving Bennington and Windham Counties in Vermont and nearby communities in New York and Massachusetts. In addition to the hospital, SVHC consists of the Centers for Living and Rehabilitation, the VNA & Hospice of SVHC, the SVHC Foundation, and the SVMC Northshire and Deerfield Valley campuses. It also includes Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Physicians, a multispecialty medical group operated in partnership with Dartmouth-Hitchcock.

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