Finding joy in palliative care practice: one physician's perspective

Four years ago, Dr. Kathryn Kirkland at Dartmouth-Hitchcock left the world of infectious disease–a world that "felt increasingly superficial, fragmented, isolated, a hard place to find joy and meaning"–for the world of palliative care. Through several patient stories in JAMA, she recounts three elements of practice which cultivate joy:

It’s funny how the world of palliative care, which each day brings us face-to-face with illness, with mortality, with heartbreak, is not a place of overwhelming sadness. Each day, instead, we find (or perhaps we cocreate) meaning, and even joy in our work. What core elements of our practice allow this to happen? 

Finding joy through three core elements of practice:

  1. Co-creation of shared goals, organized in a plan that sets expectations with patients and avoids interventions that will not help.
  2. Narrative approaches designed to elicit patient' stories in rich detail, with help from literature, art, music, and spirituality—in ways we can all learn from.
  3. Collaborative, interprofessional team-based care beginning every morning with a daily gathering—a "community of practice."
Source Article:

Cited Work: Kirkland KB. Finding Joy in PracticeCocreation in Palliative Care. JAMA. 2017;317(20):2065-2066. doi:10.1001/jama.2017.1109


Topics: Palliative Care, Joy in Practice