VCU Massey Cancer Center and Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU First in Virginia to Receive Advanced Certification for Palliative Care

Virginia Commonwealth University Massey Cancer Center and Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) have jointly earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for their palliative care programs, making them the first and only certified palliative care programs in Virginia. Palliative care provides specialized, multidisciplinary care for patients with serious illnesses, including but not limited to cancer, by addressing physical, emotional, social and spiritual needs.

Together, Massey and CHoR’s palliative care programs underwent a rigorous on-site review and satisfied The Joint Commission’s palliative care-specific standards, which focus on patient and family-centered care in order to optimize the quality of life for patients with serious illness. Massey’s program serves adults, and CHoR’s program serves children.

The Joint Commission is a not-for-profit organization that accredits and certifies health care organizations and programs in the United States. The Joint Commission accreditation and certification is recognized nationwide as a symbol of quality that reflects an organization’s commitment to meeting certain performance standards.

“In achieving this advanced certification, VCU Massey Cancer Center and Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU have demonstrated their commitment to the highest level of care for patients with serious illness,” said Michele Sacco, executive director, Advanced Certification for Palliative Care, The Joint Commission. “Certification is a voluntary process and I commend Massey and CHoR for successfully undertaking this challenge to elevate their standards of care and instill confidence in the community they serve.”

“This certification affirms the clinical excellence of our palliative care program. We are the first in Virginia and one of only two dozen in the nation to receive this designation, and we couldn’t be more proud,” said Egidio Del Fabbro, M.D., nationally recognized expert in palliative care and director of the palliative care program at Massey.

“This certification speaks to Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU’s dedication to advancing children’s health in Central Virginia. Palliative care and pain management is one of the many ways that we treat the whole child and family, not just the illness,” said Deborah Fisher, Ph.D., clinical director of CHoR’s pediatric palliative care and pain management program.

An integral part of Massey’s internationally award-winning palliative care program is the 11-bed Thomas Palliative Care Unit, which is the only dedicated palliative care unit in Central Virginia. The unit has been providing inpatient care in a unique, home-like atmosphere since its opening in 2000. In addition to the inpatient unit, the Massey palliative care program offers supportive care outpatient clinics as well as a consult service for physicians throughout VCU Medical Center.

“Certification from The Joint Commission is an indication of the high quality of our long-standing program and is a sign of our commitment to care, safety and patient outcomes,” said Clareen Wiencek, Ph.D., palliative care nurse manager at Massey.

The Pediatric Palliative Care Program at CHoR is a consult service dedicated to providing children and families with seamless, interdisciplinary and holistic care. The program optimizes quality of life while providing children with relief from the symptoms, pain and stress related to serious illness – whatever the diagnosis.

“Pediatric palliative care is about life. This accreditation is a testament to quality of life that our team of pediatric physicians, specialists, surgeons, nurses and therapists provide to children,” said Fisher.

Additionally, the palliative care program at Massey conducts research to advance treatments for the management of pain and symptoms and other aspects of palliative care. The program also provides training to clinicians and administrators at other institutions across the country. It is designated by the Center to Advance Palliative Care as one of only eight Palliative Care Leadership Centers  nationwide.  

For more information about the palliative care program at VCU Massey Cancer Center, visit


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