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University of Colorado System

What is Palliative Care?

University of Colorado System via Coursera


Palliative care provides invaluable help for patients living with serious or life-limiting illness and their family caregivers. Palliative care should be part of healthcare services to improve quality of life, the ability to tolerate and benefit from treatment and improve survival. In this course, you will learn about the nature of suffering and how this concept can help you understand the experience of people living with serious illness. Next, you will learn skills to more effectively communicate with patients, families and other care providers to both understand their experiences and provide an extra layer of support. In the next module you will explore your own core values and beliefs and how they impact your work with others. Finally, you will learn how to do a whole person assessment to understand the needs of people with serious illness so you can develop a plan to support them. You will be able to immediately use these insights, skills and tools in your work with people living with serious illness. In later courses, you will learn to ease pain and other symptoms, such as loss of appetite, shortness of breath and fatigue. In the final course, you will explore ways to ease psycho-social-spiritual distress. These courses will prepare you to bring basic palliative care to all in need.


  • Suffering
    • In this module, you will learn about suffering. Suffering is different for each person living with serious illness. Suffering has many causes, such as pain, and other physical symptoms. People also suffer because of emotional, spiritual and social concerns. If you have done a great job of easing pain, but you don’t offer help for other problems, the person will still suffer. You will learn how to help people feel like someone understands them and they are not alone. You will learn how to help people feel better, with less confusion and more hope. Finally, you will hear Ollie Green talk about his experiences of illness and suffering.
  • SNAP
    • In this lesson, you’ll learn about SNAP, an easy-to-remember set of skills to use for effective conversations about values and beliefs.
  • Communication in Palliative Care
    • In this module you will learn about the importance of good communication skills as we work with patients and families living with serious illness. People often believe that communication skills are something you are born with... She is just ‘a natural’ at talking with patients and families. They always love to talk with her. I am just not good at talking with others… We would never say “She is just 'a natural' at walking, reading, driving a car or any of other things that we need to be able to do to live and enjoy our lives." We watch and learn from others and then we work and practice until we can master a new skill. We all can learn ways to be better at communicating with patients and families. We can learn basic skills of active listening, being supportive, providing and reinforcing information to patients and families, and encouraging the patient/family caregiver to talk with us. In this module, we will review some specific techniques to use when we share bad news with a patient and family caregiver. This can be scary and uncomfortable for both the patient, the family caregiver and the healthcare providers. However, this too can become a natural part of our goal of patient-centered communication.
  • Effective Palliative Care Begins with Self-Awareness
    • This module has three lessons. In the first lesson, you will explore your personal values and beliefs around health, illness and dying. This self-awareness will improve your ability to have effective palliative care conversations with people who have serious illnesses. In the second lesson, you will reflect on your values and beliefs from childhood and consider what's important to you as an adult. We will focus on values and beliefs around health, illness and dying, all of which are important to consider in palliative care. Lastly, you will reflect on your potential to judge or pull away from people who don't share your values and beliefs.
  • Whole Person Assessment
    • In this module we will talk about the need to assess all dimensions of health. These include the physical, the spiritual, the psychological, the social and the economic areas that cause people living with serious illness distress.

Taught by

Nancy Robertson, Maurice Scott, Kelly Arora, Amos Bailey and Regina Fink


5.0 rating, based on 3 Class Central reviews

4.8 rating at Coursera based on 278 ratings

Start your review of What is Palliative Care?

  • This course is an excellent, whole-rounded introduction to palliative care. The inter-professional experience and expertise of the course creators are truly reflected in the material, providing learners from all walks of life a solid foundation in making sense of the purpose and competencies of the field. As early in this course (as part of the Coursera Specialization where it belongs), important tools for meaningful interactions with patients and their families (of all definitions of that term for the patient) are presented, and it won't be surprising if one finds these tools useful even outside the palliative care setting.
  • Partha Chowdhury
    An excellent course, not only for health care providers but also for all human who cares for any living thing which includes animals wild or pets and plants, trees. This course must be read again and again especially for care givers. Healthy humans will have a clear understanding and what to expect during their own pre death experience, be ready to understand the final destination and make it peaceful for self and for others (especially for their own loved ones)
  • Anonymous
    I have received from mekerery university palliative care diploma and know i want to learn and upgrading my self .

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