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)

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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 on-line 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.


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

Other Courses in this Certificate Program

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 “what changes” with conversations and symptom assessment & management nearing end of […]

Registration Information

$715 + HST
$785 + HST
$670 + HST
$670 + HST
$670 + HST

Site Groups

A group discount rate is available for site groups of three or more people. For details please contact

Please Note

  • Refund Policy – To withdraw from a course, send a written request to by September 15, 2023. 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 16, 2023.
  • 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 Funding

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.

How to Apply for OSAP Funding

This course is OSAP approved (more approved courses are listed below, and you can also verify on the Micro-credentials Portal). To apply for financial assistance through OSAP you will need to establish an OSAP account. You must apply before the course completion date. Visit

Once you have registered for an eligible OSAP Micro-credential program, the University Registrar’s Office requires a Micro-Credential Program information form to be completed to process your OSAP application. Please fill out the top section of the form and send it to to get assistance in completing the form.

For questions regarding the OSAP Micro-Credential funding, eligibility or application process, please contact UofT’s Enrolment Services directly at, or by phone at 416-978-2190 for assistance.

Contact Us

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