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Stanford University

Symptom Management in Palliative Care

Stanford University via Coursera


This course should be taken after the Essentials of Palliative Care course and continues building your primary palliative care skills – communication, psychosocial support and goals of care. You will learn how to screen, assess, and manage both physical and psychological symptoms. You will explore common symptoms such as pain, nausea, fatigue, and distress and learn specific treatments. You will continue to follow Sarah and Tim’s experience and learn cultural competencies critical for optimal symptom management.

Stanford Medicine is jointly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), to provide continuing education for the healthcare team. Visit the FAQs below for important information regarding 1) Date of original release and Termination or expiration date; 2) Accreditation and Credit Designation statements; 3) Disclosure of financial relationships for every person in control of activity content.


  • Course Introduction and Overview
    • Regular assessment and management of physical and psychological symptoms is critical to treatment adherence and quality of life for patients. Still, symptoms such as pain, nausea and distress are often under-treated. Palliative care specialists can help when symptoms are difficult to manage. People with a life-threatening diagnosis often experience symptoms that change regularly and may persist as chronic issues throughout life. We discuss common symptoms experienced by people such as pain, nausea and fatigue. Poorly managed symptoms often lead to isolation from regular activities and increased psychological distress. Some patients cite a loss of identity that comes along with life being defined by the experience of symptoms and side effects. In this course, you will learn more about how to identify, assess and manage common physical and psychological symptoms.
  • Review of Palliative Care
    • This module reviews the concepts learned in the Essentials of Palliative Care course and a brief summary of the symptoms covered in the Symptom Management course. We realize that some learners are interested in only completing specific courses while others are moving through the entire specialization. The following videos are meant as a review for those who have not completed the other courses. You are not required to watch these videos if you feel you have a strong handle on the material. You can check your knowledge with the ungraded quiz in the next section and review the summary videos if necessary. Also contained in this module are the Sarah case study videos from Essentials of Palliative Care for those who want to review her story.
  • Pain
    • This module focuses on pain assessment and management for patients suffering from serious illness. We will also address how pain is subjective and why communication is critical to get a better understanding of a patient's experience.
  • Other Physical Symptoms
    • In this module, you will learn more about how to identify, assess and manage common physical symptoms that affect patients with serious illnesses.
  • Distress
    • Emotional distress is common for patients and families living with a serious illness. Distress may surface as a result of, among other things: physical symptoms, fears, uncertainty, or a sense of losing one’s identity.

      Palliative care, in part, addresses the relationship between disease, stress, social roles and emotional manifestations to improve quality of life for patients and families. Often times this involves managing the emotional adjustment to a diagnosis or at other transition points during the course of disease and survivorship.

      Patients report that emotional wellbeing is one of the biggest influencers on quality of life. Still, emotional distress is often underreported and under treated. This module will help providers and caregivers conduct a basic screening and assessment for emotional distress and identify several ways to manage distress for those living with serious illness.
  • Final Steps
    • Congratulations on completing the course content. You have a few more step to complete the course. First review your reflection, next complete a peer-reviewed course project and then take the final exam. We hope you have enjoyed the course and look forward to seeing you in other classes!

Taught by

Kavitha Ramchandran, Joshua C. Fronk and Manuela Kogon


4.5 rating at Coursera based on 19 ratings

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