Beaufort Memorial Hospital is partnering with the University of South Carolina and the Medical University of South Carolina to study end-of-life care in the Lowcountry.
The study's designers hope to identify the kind of care most helpful to seriously ill patients in rural communities with limited medical access, and to learn how to improve that care.
"We don't really have a palliative care model to follow here in the Lowcountry; this (study) is the first of its kind to meet with focus groups to see what folks are looking for," said Dixie Slichter, a LifeFit community health specialist at Beaufort Memorial Hospital.
The study will take place in three phases, starting with two, two-session focus groups in September.
The hospital is looking for Beaufort County residents who have end-of-life-care experience to be part of the focus groups so that researchers can gather information about how both black and white patients and families wish to be treated during palliative care and what their biggest needs are.
The team of researchers, led by Ronit Elk, a research associate professor at the University of South Carolina's College of Nursing, will analyze the responses to develop a pilot program with Beaufort Memorial Hospital.
The program will use protocols informed by the study to improve end-of-life care at the hospital and could serve as a model for similar communities around the country.
"We're excited to be on the forefront of a new study that has the potential to improve care not only for residents of our own rural communities, but also for patients all over the country facing life-threatening illnesses," Beaufort Memorial Cancer Program Director Connie Duke said in a news release.
To complete the first phase of the study, the hospital hopes to have 30 volunteers for its two focus groups, Slichter said.
Each group will meet twice in September, and the sessions will last for about two hours.
Participants must be black or white and have cared for a family member or other loved one older than 60 years old who died within the past year.
For more information about the study or to participate, volunteers are asked to call Cindy Coburn-Smith of LifeFit at Beaufort Memorial Hospital at 843-522-5835.
Follow reporter Zach Murdock at twitter.com/IPBG_Zach.
How to sign up
Focus groups will be held at the Beaufort College Building at USC Beaufort at 801 Carteret Street in Beaufort.
Group A will meet Tuesday, Sept. 17, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., and Tuesday, Sept. 24, from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
Group B will meet Thursday, Sept. 19, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., and Thursday, Sept. 26, from 6 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
Participants will receive a $20 Walmart gift card and a $15 gas card for each focus group session they attend. Sandwiches, snacks and beverages will be served.