Palliative Care at Valley View
For people facing serious or life-threatening illness, palliative care can provide pain relief, holistic support and peace of mind.
Brandy Drake, MD
Brandy Drake, MD is an emergency medicine and hospice and palliative medicine physician, serving patients in Valley View’s Emergency Department and inpatient palliative care service. The new inpatient palliative care service is dedicated to adding an extra layer of support for patients and families dealing with serious and life-threating illness, helping them manage symptoms, navigate the confusing medical system and make difficult decisions.
Originally from Glenwood Springs, Dr. Drake was born at Valley View and graduated from Glenwood Springs High School in 2000 after an exchange year in the Ukraine. From there she attended Carleton College and medical school at the University of Colorado, before eventually returning to her roots at Valley View in 2014.
Dr. Drake began her Masters of Science in Palliative Care at the University of Colorado, and then entered a Community-Based Hospice and Palliative Medicine Fellowship through the University of Colorado Hospital in August of 2020. This fellowship is the first of its kind in the country, and after completing the two-year fellowship, Dr. Drake will test to become a board-certified physician in Hospice and Palliative Medicine.
Dr. Drake currently divides her time between emergency medicine and palliative medicine, and plans to continue in both capacities. “I truly love both fields,” she says. “I love taking care of patients and families in the throes of emergencies, and when they are facing the daunting path of life-limiting illness. I love the breadth of skills these specialties require.”
Brandy has two children, aged eight and five, and currently lives in Glenwood Springs with them, her partner, and his 11-year-old son. When not working or studying, she enjoys epic dance battles with the kids, drinking good coffee and reading books with her partner (novels and non-fiction mostly, especially memoirs about end-of-life experiences). She also enjoys running and hiking in the woods, as well as “connecting with my amazing tribe of friends both locally and spread across the world!”
Erica Hickey, NP
Erica Hickey is the newest nurse practitioner at Valley View specializing in palliative care. She brings an exciting history of professional experience to the table, garnered in challenging environments from across the globe.
Erica spent over ten years at the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, IL, where she served as an emergency room nurse before moving into inpatient palliative care. (Palliative care is supportive care for people living with serious illness, focusing on improving quality of life and honoring patients’ goals and values.) During this period, Erica also worked with Doctors Without Borders and the International Medical Corps to provide humanitarian aid in the Ivory Coast, Chad, and Haiti. “Resources are so hard to come by in some of the places I’ve worked. Just appreciating what we have here at VVH, how lucky we are, is a huge benefit,” says Erica. “Communication can be difficult in other parts of the world, so can access to clean water and basic medical supplies. It makes you so thankful for great resources.”
Erica currently lives in the Eagle River Valley, and has been in the Colorado mountains for the last year and a half. “After spending much of my time in big cities, I love working in such a small, intimate community,” she continues. “We take care of each other, and that’s a nice change of pace. I also love seeing people I know and treat every time I leave the house. Rural Colorado just gives me exactly what I wasn’t getting elsewhere.”
She enjoys various outdoor activities, but fishing is her recreational passion. In fact, since 2018, she has written a handful of creative non-fiction articles on her fly fishing experiences, publishing in TROUT Magazine, Anglers Journal, and on her personal blog, Waterwritten.com.
Sean Jeung, ABCCC
Sean Jeung is a palliative care certified chaplain at Valley View. She has worked in chaplaincy and end-of-life care for over 20 years. She has also worked as a grief counselor with Pathfinders for over six years. She has been a member of the Valley View family for 17 years. Sean is honored to be one of the founding members of the palliative care program at Valley View because it aligns with her strong commitment to help people live the best life they can, especially under difficult or limited circumstances. Sean lives in No Name with her husband Greg and their two dogs where she finds deep satisfaction and joy just being alive .
Lauren Martin, M.Div., BCCC
Lauren Martin is a board-certified clinical chaplain at Valley View. He has been a Valley View chaplain for 18 years, the last six of which as the spiritual care coordinator chaplain, overseeing a team of PRN board-certified chaplains. He now also joins the palliative care team at Valley View, caring for patients and their families facing multiple challenges with one or more serious illnesses.
To become a board-certified chaplain, Lauren received specialized healthcare training though clinical pastoral education, including 1,600 hours of hands-on, clinical and academic education combining human personality, theology, education and psychotherapy. He also holds a certificate of palliative care chaplaincy. As a chaplain, Lauren specializes in caring for aspects of personhood and personal being that can’t be treated with a band aid or a pill. He listens, provides supportive companionship when necessary and helps connect or reconnect patients and families with their spiritual resources or sacred spaces. In his role as a palliative care chaplain, he offers spiritual, emotional and relational support to patients and their family who are facing multiple challenges with one or more serious illnesses.
When asked why he does what he does, Lauren says, “What I get to do is very exciting, rewarding and meaningful as patients figure out their life goals and prioritize their values for life, family and sometimes faith.” In his free time, Lauren has many passions including: riding his bike, hiking, practicing outdoor survival skills, gardening, reading, playing his djembe drum in church, and roasting coffee beans.
Katie Puening, NP
Katie Puening works as a nurse practitioner on Valley View’s Palliative Care team. She is a licensed Adult and Geriatric Nurse Practitioner with experience in chronic disease management, cardiology, and oncology. Recently, Katie has attained her Doctorate of Nursing Practice from the University of Colorado in December of 2021. “My focus is in improving patient care not from a data perspective,” she says, “but through looking at the whole person and individual care.”
Katie spent a large part of her career working in Chicago and Denver, two large metropolitan areas that make patient connection a challenge. “One of the things I love about my current job is the connection I get to make,” she says. “In a large hospital system, you rarely see the same patients twice. Here those patients are a part of the community, just like I am.”
I’m from the Midwest originally, so this environment is much more my speed. It’s a really pleasant change.”
As a palliative care nurse, Katie gets many opportunities to connect with her patients. “I love getting to know them on a very individual level,” she says. “I have a lot of opportunities to learn who they are and align that with the treatment regimen we utilize with them. Again, living in such a small community where connection is easier makes that relationship so much more intimate and productive.”
Thanks to her educational path, Katie hasn’t had a ton of time for recreation lately. “Quality of life and work balance are very important to me but finishing up a doctoral program has definitely taken over to some extent,” she says. Not to say she hasn’t indulged her hobbies at all—Katie spends her precious spare time spinning her own yarn out of Colorado wool, and then knitting that yarn into her own creations.
“I think my patients have taught me that you have to latch on to those things which bring you joy, and keep those things central in your life,” she says. “Weaving, knitting and spinning represent joy to me, and as such I’ve made time for them even in the midst of a very busy time.”
Palliative care is a specialized medical service focused on alleviating pain, anxiety and other distressing symptoms in patients facing a serious or life-threating illness. The goal is to understand the values of the patient and their family to ensure that their treatment best matches their wishes. Palliative care aims to improve the quality of life of our patients regardless of their disease or treatment plan. It is about caring for the patient, not just treating the disease.
Palliative care is appropriate for anyone diagnosed with a progressive, chronic, critical or life-threatening illness. It includes but is not limited to patients with:
• Respiratory failure / Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
• Heart failure
• Severe diabetes
• Kidney failure
• Advanced Alzheimer’s disease
• Patients with a lack of response to therapies
• Spiritual and/or emotional distress
Services are tailored to the individual patient’s needs. Some of the services offered include:
• Collaboration with the primary care doctor/referring physician to relieve pain and difficult symptoms associated with the illness.
• Management side effects associated with current treatment
• Emotional and spiritual support
• Education and guidance about the condition and medical choices
• Assistance with care planning options including home care, rehabilitation, telehealth, long term care or hospice
Palliative care is appropriate at any point during a patient’s journey with a serious illness, regardless of the treatment plan.
No. Although there are some similarities, palliative care is different in many ways. Hospice is meant for patients in the final months of life and focuses only on comfort. Palliative care may be offered at any time in the course of disease along with curative treatments. Patients benefit from having an entire team of palliative care physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, chaplains and other specialists partnering with their other doctors to provide an extra layer of support. Working collaboratively, the palliative care team helps treat pain and suffering as well as other symptoms such as nausea, anxiety and depression.
Palliative care is available by referral only. Patients can ask their hospital-based provider, often called a hospitalist, for more information.
Additionally, a patient’s provider may suggest a visit with a member of the palliative care team if he or she feels these services could be helpful in a patient’s overall care plan.
Once referred into palliative care, a member of the palliative care team will come to the patient’s room to talk more about the services offered.
If you would like to contact a member of the palliative care team, please ask your hospital-based provider for more information.
Valley View Hospital | 1906 Blake Avenue | Glenwood Springs CO, 81601