Palliative care is medical care focused on the relief of suffering and support for the best possible quality of life for patients facing serious, life-threatening illness and their families. It aims to identify and address the physical, psychological, and practical burdens of illness. Palliative care may be delivered simultaneously with all appropriate curative and life-prolonging interventions. In practice, palliative care practitioners provide assessment and treatment of pain and other symptom distress; employ communication skills with patients, families, and colleagues; support complex medical decision making and goal setting based on identifying and respecting patient wishes and goals; and promote medically informed care coordination, continuity, and practical support for patients, family caregivers, and professional colleagues across healthcare settings and through the trajectory of an illness. The field of hospital palliative care has grown rapidly in recent years in response to patient need and clinician interest in effective approaches to managing chronic life-threatening illness. The growth in the number and needs of seriously and chronically ill patients who are not clearly terminally ill has led to the development of palliative care services outside the hospice benefit provided by Medicare (and other insurers). This article reviews the clinical, educational, demographic, and financial imperatives driving this growth, describes the clinical components of palliative care and the range of service models available, defines the relation of hospital-based palliative care to hospice, summarizes the literature on palliative care outcomes, and presents practical resources for clinicians seeking knowledge and skills in the field. Journal of Hospital Medicine 2006;1:21–28. © 2006 Society of Hospital Medicine.