Subspecialty Careers: Hospice and Palliative Medicine

The Discipline

Palliative medicine aims to relieve symptoms and pain a patient suffers due to a serious illness. Goals of palliative care include reducing suffering, improving the quality of life for a patient, and supporting the patient and family throughout the treatment process.

Hospice care is provided for patients facing a terminal diagnosis who no longer wish to undergo curative treatment. Goals of hospice care include relieving symptoms and supporting patients in the end-of-life stages.

Physicians trained in hospice and palliative medicine come from a wide range of backgrounds and may practice in a variety of different settings. Internal medicine physicians trained in hospice and palliative care may incorporate these skills into a primary care setting, while others may work in groups or agencies dedicated to providing these services. Others may work for hospitals providing palliative care and hospice services or may serve as consultants to other physicians and clinical services.


Hospice and palliative medicine certification was developed by the boards of nine disciplines (internal medicine, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, family medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, physical medicine and rehabilitation, psychiatry and neurology, and radiology); individuals completing basic residency training in these specialties are eligible for further training in hospice and palliative medicine.

Hospice and palliative medicine fellowship training requires an additional year of training beyond primary residency training.

For the 2016-2017 academic year, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredited 121 training programs with 326 active positions in Hospice and palliative medicine.

Major Professional Societies

  • American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine
  • International Association for Hospice and Palliative Care

Back to January 2017 Issue of IMpact