Mat with words "welcome" on it, lying on a wooden deck.  A pair of feet in red trainers in front of the mat are visible.

Welcome to the course

Welcome to Opioid Analgesics: Treating Pain in People with Cancer.

I’m Dr Victoria Hewitt. I work as a Specialist Palliative Care Physician, and I am also Curriculum Director for Newcastle University Masters programmes in Oncology and Palliative Care. I have a special interest in safe medicines management at end of life.

Over the next three weeks, I, together Dr Paul Coulter, will take you through a series of online activities, including discussions, video and audio, to help you understand safe opioid prescribing for the treatment of cancer pain, and how to avoid and manage opioid-related adverse events.

I’m really looking forward to the course - I hope you are too. Here’s an outline of what to expect.

Course structure

This course happens over of 3 weeks, which we estimate should take about 3 hours.

  • We begin in Week 1 with the pharmacology and physiology of opioids, which forms a foundation for the weeks that follow.
  • As well as exploring opioid guidelines in practice, Week 2 delves into the principles of safe opioid prescribing, including initiating and titrating a strong opioid, opioids and driving and switching between routes of administration.
  • Week 3 is about anticipating, recognising and managing problem associated with opioids, such as prescribing in renal failure, opioid toxicity and tolerance.

Accreditation and certification

At the end of the course you can take a test to verify your understanding and earn a certificate of completion. At the time of writing, accreditation by the UK’s Royal College of General Practitioners and Royal College of Physicians for this course is pending.

Course materials

Learning materials in this course take the form of text-based articles, narrated animations , quizzes and video interviews. A case study, based on authentic scenarios commonly-encountered in clinical practice, also weaves its way throughout the course. We will apply and test learning to this fictional patient as we progress.

In some steps we have provided links to external resources at the bottom of the page. We have also provided links to other parts of the course where relevant. Please scroll down to access these useful resources.

Learning together

Another really important way to learn about opioids is through interacting with others. This course has participants from all over the world, offering a unique opportunity to discover how others are tackling safe opioid prescribing in practice and whether we face similar barriers in doing so.

There are several ways to interact with other learners on this course. Firstly, we have created dedicated discussion steps, where you can share your thoughts and reflections about specific opioid-related issues. We have provided links to some discussion steps below, to give you a flavour of these activities.

To find discussions, and add your own thoughts, click on the “Comments” button. You’ll notice that every step features one of these buttons. We encourage you to read others comments, make your own observations and share experiences, should you feel able to do so appropriately, throughout the course.

A safe space for feedback

It is important to always bear in mind that discussing practice and ideas for change can be a very emotive and personal process - particularly if it is something that relates to you as an individual. After all, you are making a clear statement that something could be done better.

If you are commenting on someone else’s idea, please ensure your feedback is supportive and is intended to make that idea the best it can be. Similarly, if you feel you’ve received harsh feedback try to consider whether it contains opportunities to improve. It is also acceptable to politely reject feedback if it doesn’t reflect your specific context or circumstances, so long as you briefly explain why.

Importance notice

Only share your experiences if you feel comfortable doing so. If you do share clinical cases you are familiar with, you must ensure they are made fully anonymous and contain no information that could identify the patient concerned.

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This article is from the free online course:

Opioid analgesics: Treating Pain in People with Cancer

Newcastle University

Get a taste of this course

Find out what this course is like by previewing some of the course steps before you join: