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In November 2005, the Birmingham VAMC opened the Safe Harbor Palliative Care Unit, a 10 bed inpatient palliative care unit located on the sixth floor. Veterans who need admission for acute symptom management, respite, terminal care or other needs are cared for on the Safe Harbor Palliative Care Unit in a holistic interdisciplinary fashion with nursing, palliative medicine, pastoral care, social work and volunteers including music therapists who work together to support the veteran and family. Currently up to 2 beds are used for Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) Model for frail veterans.  Geriatric evaluation is routine with Geriatrics rounding weekly and attending the interdisciplinary meeting and providing more acute consultation as needed.  In addition, Dr. Amy Lott provides routine Geropsychiatric consultation and evaluation. 

VA cropped compressedWeekly interdisciplinary team meeting

The Safe Harbor Palliative Care Unit is the culmination of a 4-year Safe Harbor Palliative Care Program developed to meet the needs of veterans. The Safe Harbor Program provides inpatient/outpatient palliative consultations, home hospice supervision, inpatient Palliative Care services on the Safe Harbor Unit, and continuing education for medical providers, nurses and other ancillary health care providers throughout the medical center. Home Based Primary/Palliative Care is an integral part of the overall Safe Harbor Program. Veterans are often referred to these programs from the Safe Harbor Unit or after palliative care consultation as appropriate. In addition veterans in HBPC are often referred to the Safe Harbor Palliative Care Unit when inpatient care is needed.   The Safe Harbor Palliative Care Unit also serves as one of the clinical experiences for the Palliative Care rotation for residents and fellows.
VA2 cropped compressedDaily patient care rounds


All of the physician staff on Safe Harbor Palliative Care Program have Board certification in Hospice and Palliative Care.

All nursing, social work, pastoral care and other staff on Safe Harbor have received more than 15 hours of training using Education in Palliative and End-of-Life Care for Veterans or ELNEC for Veterans in the last year and education and training is ongoing.

The Safe Harbor Palliative Care Program and Unit has been recognized as a center of excellence. The Birmingham VAMC is the first VA facility in the country to be appointed a Palliative Care Leadership Center (Joint Program with UAB) by the Center to Advance Palliative Care and was given a citation of honor by the AHA Circle of Life Award (Joint Program with UAB).  The Birmingham VAMC has been selected as one of four Centers of Innovation by the VA nationally.  The Safe Harbor Palliative Care Unit is an example of patient-family centered care highlighted at our COI.

For further information contact:

Attention: LaKeisha Lockhart, Nurse Manager
Birmingham VA Medical Center
700 19th Street South
Birmingham, Alabama 35233
205-933-8101 ext: 5480