Palliative Care 1 Approach to Care and Communication Skills

This 6-week online course is the foundational course in the certificate and focuses on the role of the nurse practitioner in applying a palliative approach to care within any practice setting. Participants will be introduced to the core competencies for palliative care that can be applied across the continuum from diagnosis to end of life. They will explore resources, prognostication tools and life-limiting illness trajectories that aid in communication, decision making and planning of care. Participants will also have an opportunity to apply communication tools to common difficult conversations such as advance care planning and goals of care.  These tools and skills form the basis of NP practice required to address the multifaceted needs of clients with progressive disease and will support complex symptom and end of life care management that is comprehensively addressed in courses 2 & 3.

Course Outcomes

By the end of this course participants will be able to:

  • Articulate the Nurse Practitioner role in working with adult clients and their families living with a progressive and life-limiting illness.
  • Develop a plan to incorporate a palliative approach to care and palliative care core competencies into their routine NP practice.
  • Utilize early identification & prognostication tools as part of a comprehensive assessment to guide decision making and care planning at key transition points in the trajectory of a serious illness.
  • Select and utilize specific communication tools to facilitate communication about the illness including breaking bad news, Advance Care Planning and Goals of Care conversations.
  • Demonstrate self-awareness and identify strategies for self-care in caring for the terminally-ill.
  • Identify appropriate resources and referrals for clients and their families living with progressive and life-limiting illness.

Certificate Criteria

This is the first of three online courses as part of the Certificate in Palliative Care for Nurse Practitioners: Core Competencies for NP Practice. Participants successfully completing all three courses within a two-year period will receive the continuing education certificate.


The certificate is for Nurse Practitioners (and/or Nurse Practitioner Program students) and those in Advanced Practice and/or CNS roles who, as part of their routine practice, may be responsible for the care of adult clients with progressive and life-limiting illnesses. The practice setting may include acute care, long-term care, community, primary care or private practice.

Course participants must hold current registration as a Nurse Practitioner in their province (or as a Registered Nurse enrolled in a Nurse Practitioner program, or working in an Advanced Practice Role)

Registration Now Open

Registration closes October 22nd, 2024

Course Outline

This course is a 6-week course delivered through the University of Toronto’s learning management system (Quercus). It is primarily self-paced; however participants are required to engage in discussions and submit activities/assignments within identified timelines (weekly). It is estimated that up to 8 hours of study per week is required for successful completion. The course will utilize a series of case scenarios to enhance learning and application.

In each of the 6 weeks, participants are expected to:

  • View an e-learning module
  • Review required readings
  • Actively engage with the course material by participating in the learning activities/assignments

For this course, the learning activities / assignments include:

  • Four online discussion activities which provide opportunity for participants to learn from the varied experiences, roles and perspectives of others
  • One short case study written assignment
  • One LIVE (via Zoom) session will take place for faculty & participants to engage with one another in a group discussion (alternative video submission option is also available for this activity for those unable to attend)

Pre-course access will be available to allow for testing of computers and general navigation.

TimeDescriptionEvaluative Components

Week 1

Introduction to Palliative Care Concepts & the NP Role

  • Principles & definitions of palliative care
  • Traditional vs. palliative approach to care models
  • Overview of competencies & standards for palliative care
  • Clinical and ethical decision-making
  • NP role & scope in caring for palliative care clients

Discussion Board Post

Week 2

Early Identification & Illness Trajectory

  • Introduction to prognostication tools
  • Review of specific life-limiting disease trajectories & key transition points in care for:
  • Incurable Cancers
  • Organ System Failure (Cardiac / Respiratory / Kidney)
  • Frailty / Dementia

Discussion Board Post

Week 3

Communication & Therapeutic Relationship Building

  • The role of communication in palliative care and the use of evidence-based tools to enhance communication
  • Managing your own emotions
  • Communication with other interprofessional team members

Case Study Assignment

Week 4 & 5

Key Conversations in Progressive Illness and Palliative Care (2 Weeks)

  • Common evidence-based tools to enhance palliative communications
  • Challenging conversations, such as:
    • Communicating new diagnosis, prognosis & “bad news”
    • Responding to high emotional states and “do not tell” requests
    • Responding to a MAiD request and communicating conscientious objection respectfully
    • Advance Care Planning (ACP) Conversation
    • Goals of Care Discussion
    • No CPR discussions
    • Preparing for family/team meetings
    • Communication with patients and families during a pandemic

Discussion Board Post

Week 6

NP Practice Environment Enablers

  • Complex planning and care co-ordination
  • Team Management
  • Debriefing & documentation
  • Practice settings
  • Resources & referral agencies
  • Caring for self
  • Resources for patients & families

LIVE Conversation Tool Application Session

Course content will remain open after faculty have posted final grades for your review.

Course Director

Leasa Knechtel

Associate Director, Centre for Professional Development
Assistant Professor, Teaching Stream


Julia Johnston, RN-EC, BScN, MN, NP-Adult, CHPCN(C)

Nurse Practitioner Palliative Care, Mississauga Halton Local Health Integration Network

Karen Lock, RN(EC), NP-Adult, NP-C, BScN, MN, CON(C), CHPCN(C)

Nurse Practitioner, Supportive Care, Medicine Program & The Freeman Centre for the Advancement of Palliative Care, North York General Hospital
Adjunct Lecturer, Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto

Palliative Care 2: Complex Symptom Management

This 6-week online course focuses on complex symptom management for clients with progressive disease. Participants will review health assessment including appropriate use of screening and diagnostics tools to gather information […]

Palliative Care 3: End-of-Life Care Management

This 6-week online course focuses on end-of-life care for clients with progressive disease.   Participants will explore the changes that occur with conversations and symptom assessment & management as clients near the […]

Registration Information

$735 + HST
$810 + HST
$690 + HST
$690 + HST
$690 + HST

Site Groups

A group discount rate of 15% is available for site groups of three or more people. To book please contact

Please Note

  • Refund Policy – To withdraw from a course, send a written request to by September 21, 2024. No refunds will be given after this date. All refunds are subject to an administrative fee of $100 + tax. Alternatively, a colleague may attend in your place. Please send your substitution request at least 3 days prior to the course to
  • Registration deadline: October 21, 2024.
  • *U of T Nursing Alumni discount is available to BScN, MN, PMNP Diploma, MScN or PhD graduates of the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto.
  • **U of T Nursing Faculty discount is available to individuals with a faculty position, adjunct or status appointment, or are a Clinical Instructor (current academic year only) at the Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing, University of Toronto.
  • ***NPAO (Nurse Practitioner Association of Ontario) members may register at the NPAO rate which is 15% off the regular rate. Please note, your name will be used to confirm that you are a member of the NPAO.
  • Applicable taxes (13% HST) will be added to the registration fees.
  • Course Cancellation Policy – The Centre for Professional Development reserves the right to cancel courses due to circumstances. The decision to cancel a course is normally made 15 days prior to the course. If you are enrolled in a course which is subsequently cancelled, you may apply your fee to another course, or receive a full refund. The Centre is not responsible for any travel or other expenses incurred by you.

Financial Assistance

OSAP for Micro-credentials

The Ontario Student Assistance Program now offers funding for micro-credentials (short training programs offered by post-secondary institutions), including a number of courses offered by the Centre for Professional Development. This funding initiative is part of Ontario’s micro-credentials strategy, helping learners access more opportunities to train or upskill for in-demand jobs through loans and grants.

OSAP for Micro-credentials is available for eligible students taking a ministry-approved micro-credential that is less than 12 weeks. 

To be eligible for OSAP for Micro-credentials, a student must be a Canadian citizen, a permanent resident, or a protected person; and, be a resident of Ontario.  

Ontario residency requirements for the purposes of OSAP for Micro-credentials are consistent with Full-Time OSAP residency criteria. 

Students may be ineligible for the following reasons:

  • they do not meet the Ontario residency requirement 
  • their family income threshold is above the income threshold to qualify for funding (i.e., $80,000 for a family of one person; $100,000 for a family of two or more people) 
  • they are restricted from OSAP for Micro-credentials (e.g., have defaulted on a previous OSAP loan, they have a failed credit check on file, they have a bursary overpayment)

Step 1: Confirm that the University of Toronto micro-credential course you want to take is OSAP-approved.

Step 2: Log in to your OSAP account. If this is your first time applying, you will need to create an OSAP account. 

Step 3: From the options listed, select and complete the OSAP for Micro-credentials Application. You can only receive OSAP for Micro-credentials funding for one course at a time.

Step 4: Once you have completed your application, you will receive communication through your OSAP account, which will guide you in completing a supplementary form on the Service Portal. 

The form requires the following information: 

  • Full Name 
  • Date of Birth 
  • Name of Program 
  • Program Study Period – start and end dates 

This must be completed by the end of the study period. 

Step 5: Your division will confirm the information that you have submitted is correct and confirm your registration status. 

Step 6: The University Registrar’s Office will update the OSAP for Micro-credentials Application with the information provided by both you and your division and process your confirmation of enrolment.

Step 7: If you have not already done so, enrol and pay for the micro-credential course you would like to take.

Note: you must be registered in an OSAP approved micro-credential program before OSAP funding will be issued/released. 

Contact Us

Centre for Professional Development
Lawrence Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing
University of Toronto
155 College Street, Suite 130
Toronto, ON, Canada
M5T 1P8