Started as a grassroots effort by a small group of parishioners of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in 1980, the idea of hospice for Nantucket was brought to the administrator of Nantucket Cottage Hospital. After a period of time, with leadership and support from the hospital’s director of nursing and director of volunteers, the first training program for “would be” hospice volunteers was run in 1982, followed by the organization of a hospice board and the development of an all-volunteer patient care program. The program operated within the structure of the hospital for the initial period until decisions could be made about whether it should become a department of the hospital or become a separate community organization. After thoughtful deliberations amongst the board and the hospital representatives, it was decided that the community would best be served if the hospice program itself functioned as a department of the hospital, while the board would form a separate, tax-exempt organization to provide support, funding, and a community advisory committee for the program. Thus a unique partnership was created by the Nantucket Cottage Hospital and Hospice Care of Nantucket Foundation, a relationship that continues to this day.
In late 2008, the decision was made by both the hospital and the foundation to change the name of the program to Palliative and Supportive Care of Nantucket, in order to expand its services to care for patients who were coping with very early phases of life-threatening illness, including patients who had curable disease. Such patients could greatly benefit from supportive services, but would find it inappropriate to be receiving them from a “hospice.” The change in name has, so far, proven to achieve our objectives, and many patients with curable or early phase illnesses have greatly benefited. Thus, the program now serves patients and families throughout the entire continuum of life-threatening illness, from the time of diagnosis through cure, or, if cure is not possible, through advancing illness, death, and bereavement. The foundation has also changed its name, accordingly, to Palliative and Supportive Care of Nantucket Foundation, with the mission to continue to support this important work.