Shift is the Gift: New Approach to Viewing the End of Life

shift is the gift

Today we continue “DRops of Wisdom,” our physician blog, with Dr. Chad Farmer, the Medical Director for LifePath Hospice, an affiliate of Chapters Health System. He shares what he calls “the shift is the gift.”

Road Less Traveled

In a physician’s life, there are a lot of decisions that need to be made along the way. Where to attend medical school? Where to go for an internship? What specialty you might be leaning toward for a residency? For me with these types of decisions, there was always one clear way and then another path that was a little more challenging and a little more complex.

Throughout my life, I’ve always chosen the road that was more complex. For instance, after growing up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, I opted to attend college in Atlanta at Emory University. I knew I wanted to study medicine, but instead of majoring in biology or chemistry like most pre-med students, I opted for sociology. Later on in my medical career, I went to Milwaukee for my palliative care fellowship. I could have stayed on in the city after the program was completed, yet I chose a road less traveled by moving to Tampa and joining LifePath Hospice. This philosophy and life motto truly shaped who I am today.

Choosing Hospice

I am often asked why I became a hospice physician. It stems back to my childhood, as I grew up in a house with profound grief due to the unexpected death of a sibling. I recall frequent discussions in our household because we never had the chance to say goodbye and never would again.

During medical school and my residency, I always gravitated toward patients who were really sick. The families were struggling with the realization that their loved ones had a very short time left to live. One day, a very wise ICU charge nurse pulled me aside one day and said, “You are very special.” When I hesitantly asked her why, she told me that I needed to look into hospice as a career. That moment set off a spark.

At this point in time, I was a resident, a junior one at that, and I didn’t really understand what hospice meant. Subsequently, I started to process her words and look into hospice. As I learned more and more about hospice, I started to understand why I had always gravitated toward patients with chronic illnesses.

shift is the giftThe Shift is the Gift Explained

When patients and families are given the news that they might only have days or weeks together, you often observe them experiencing profound grief, anger and hurt. What I was discovering when caring for these patients was that I could help them and their families by shifting their collective frame of mind.

The shift is the gift is not a medical term. It’s not defined in the dictionary. It is more of a concept: While death cannot be cured, your frame of mind can change.

We frequently hear patients and their loved ones say they wish hospice care had started sooner. They go on to say that hospice is a gift. It’s a gift of allowing people to live and die with dignity and compassion. Additionally, hospice allows patients to do things they love and spend time with the people they cherish the most.

Yes, hearing the news that a loved one would benefit from hospice is not easy. However, hospice gives days, weeks or even months to spend with your loved ones and appreciate every moment you have with them. Simply speaking, hospice gives patients and families time to have a proper goodbye.

This is why I chose to specialize in hospice. When patients and families embrace the shift-is- the-gift concept, it makes my career that much more meaningful.

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In “DRops of Wisdom,” we want to feature posts with subject matter that interests you. Please leave a comment or email us with your ideas.

At Chapters Health System, every day is devoted to educating our patients and keeping them in the place they call home. We are dedicated to ensuring that patients, young and old alike, and their families are able to make educated decisions about important healthcare matters. For more information, please call our helpful Chapters Health team at 1.866.204.8611 or send an email to

shift is the gift

Chad Farmer, MD, MA

As the medical director at LifePath Hospice, Chad Farmer, MD, MA, is a local resource for area hospitals seeking to educate staff on issues surrounding chronic conditions, palliative care and hospice programs, and he often presents at national conferences. He has a 12-year history with LifePath Hospice and Chapters Health System. Over this time period, Dr. Farmer served in various roles, including staff physician, medical director of Chapters Health Palliative Care and associate medical director of Patient Access. Prior to returning to LifePath Hospice, Dr. Farmer most recently served as associate medical director for Covenant Hospice, which operates in Northwest Florida and Southern Alabama.

Dr. Farmer earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from Emory University in Atlanta, his medical degree from the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine in Oklahoma City and a Master of Arts from the Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee. Dr. Farmer is a member of the American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians and the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Care.

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