We use cookies to improve your experience on our site. Please accept the Privacy Policy to continue.

Press Releases

NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue Opens New Palliative Care Serenity Unit for Patients and Families

The Serenity Unit provides support and services for patients waiting to be transferred to hospice facilities, and for patients who are being cared for at Bellevue who are either at the end of life or need expert symptom pain management

Patient’s son says Palliative Care team “took us in and made us feel like family”

Mar 07, 2024

NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue today announced the opening of a new Palliative Care Serenity Unit for patients and families. The new unit provides support and services for patients with serious illness who can benefit from extra support and expert symptom management, patients who are waiting to transfer to hospice or who are nearing the end of life.

The Palliative Care Program, which is accredited with Advanced Certification for Palliative Care from The Joint Commission, began in 2006. The program serves a diverse and often vulnerable patient population. The team works with experts in child life, therapeutic arts, legal health, psychiatry, critical care, and community hospices to serve patients and families.

“We created the Serenity Unit because we noted an increasing number of patients either spending their dying days at the hospital or in need of extra support and symptom management expertise that palliative care provides,” said Susan E. Cohen, MD, director of the Palliative Care Program at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue. “We want to ensure that patients who are here in their final days are being treated with dignity and expertise.”

The demand for services increased steadily year by year, and last year the Palliative Care team provided almost 1,000 patient consultations.

Gregory Harrison’s mother, the acclaimed actress Vinie Burrows, was a patient in the Palliative Care unit before her death on December 25, 2023.

“My mother swore by Bellevue,” Mr. Harrison said. “She had been a patient in Geriatrics for close to 30 years and loved her medical care team. Over time she became aware of palliative care and the services that were available to her.”

The Palliative Care program at Bellevue consists of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers and a dedicated chaplain, who, along with primary care teams and specialists, take care of patients who have cancer, advanced heart failure, kidney failure, serious lung disease, as well as patients who are very sick in the ICU, with dementia or serious brain injury. The program provides a full array of clinical services for patients and families experiencing the impact of serious illness or injury who are facing end-of-life care. Services include an inpatient consultation service, an outpatient palliative care clinic, pediatric palliative care consultation, a bereavement program, a volunteer/doula program, and an inpatient end-of-life care unit.

When Ms. Burrows started having heart trouble at age 98, Mr. Harrison said, “she and her doctors knew that there wasn’t a whole lot that could be done. They were great at understanding that she didn’t want any extreme measures or invasive procedures. We knew it was really a matter of time. She turned 99 at Bellevue. There wasn’t much to be done, but [the Palliative Care team] just took us in and made us feel like family. We celebrated her birthday with the staff and the pastors and everybody. It was just wonderful, you know, for a sad time.”

Mr. Harrison added: “Palliative care reduces so much of the stress of being in the hospital. It makes you feel much more able to accept what’s happening, and the transition, so that you’re able to feel good about the care that your family member is getting. It made my sister and I feel like we were respecting our mother’s wishes, and that the Bellevue Palliative Care team was respecting her wishes.”

“We help people cope with the changes that a serious illness brings. We make sure we’re taking the best care of patients we can, even when it’s something that we can’t cure,” said Dr. Cohen. “I’m really grateful to everyone who has made this work possible here at Bellevue and has contributed to the building and creation of the Serenity Unit. When everyone comes together, it’s for a good cause. We’re making sure we’re doing right for patients.”


MEDIA CONTACT: Bellevue Public Relations, 212-562-4516

About NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue
NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue is America’s oldest public hospital, established in 1736. Affiliated with the NYU Grossman School of Medicine, the 851-bed hospital is a major referral center for highly complex cases, with 6,000 employees including highly skilled, interdisciplinary clinical staff. The hospital is a Level 1 Trauma Center and annually it sees about 103,000 emergency room visits, more than 520,000 outpatient visits, and almost 200,000 visits to our COVID-19 testing and vaccine centers. Clinical centers of excellence include: Emergency Medicine and Trauma Care; Cardiovascular Services; Bariatric Surgery; Designated Regional Perinatal Center and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit; Children’s Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program; and Cancer Services. For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org/bellevue and follow us on Facebook and X(Twitter).

About NYC Health + Hospitals
NYC Health + Hospitals is the largest municipal health care system in the nation serving more than a million New Yorkers annually in more than 70 patient care locations across the city’s five boroughs. A robust network of outpatient, neighborhood-based primary and specialty care centers anchors care coordination with the system’s trauma centers, nursing homes, post-acute care centers, home care agency, and MetroPlus health plan—all supported by 11 essential hospitals. Its diverse workforce of more than 43,000 employees is uniquely focused on empowering New Yorkers, without exception, to live the healthiest life possible. For more information, visit www.nychealthandhospitals.org and stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.