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Palliative Care: Pain Management for your Patients

Develop tools for assessing, managing, and treating pain to help ease distress for palliative care patients.

Woman holding her head to indicate she is in pain.

Palliative Care: Pain Management for your Patients

  • 5 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Open level

Find out more about how to join this course

Understand pain management with the University of Colorado

Palliative care provides important support for people living with serious or life-limiting illnesses and their family caregivers.

On this five-week course, you’ll develop tools for assessing and managing pain in seriously ill people. One of a series on palliative care from the University of Colorado, the course will give you the knowledge and skills you need to ease distress for people in your care.

Understand the types, causes, and symptoms of pain

Before you can begin developing tools for supporting patients, you need to be able to define their symptoms. The course will start with an introduction to pain and pain assessment.

You’ll learn to identify types of pain and recognise their causative factors. You’ll also examine some of the most common and distressing symptoms, such as loss of appetite, fatigue, delirium, and nausea.

Investigate treatments and therapy for pain

The next phase of the course focuses on the management of these common symptoms of pain. You’ll discover the medication available for treating symptoms, as well as non-medical approaches and therapies.

You’ll be able to use these approaches to help patients and caregivers manage their emotional response to pain and distress.

At the end of the five weeks, you’ll have a toolbox of practical insights, skills, and strategies to draw on when caring for the seriously ill.


  • Week 1


    • Introduction to Pain

      Welcome you to the second course in Palliative Care! Pain is a common symptom and one that can dramatically affect a person's quality of life and well-being.

    • What is Pain?

      In this activity, we define pain, explore the nature of pain, and understand when pain occurs.

    • Pain Transmission

      In this activity, we will discuss the cascade of events that lead to pain perception.

    • Pain Barriers

      This activity reviews barriers that can affect good pain control. Pain can change overall quality of life for patients and family caregivers by causing emotional distress, anxiety or depression, disturbing sleep and appetite.

    • Pain Assessment Basics

      In this activity, we will discuss pain screening and assessment techniques. The readings will reinforce what we are learning today and the optional materials will give you an opportunity to dive deeper.

    • Other Things to Know About Pain

      We will review other things you need to know about the pain experience. Pain is not just a physical experience, it's a very personal one. Take time to find out what the pain means to the person and how it affects quality of life.

    • Assessing Pain in the Nonverbal or Cognitively Impaired

      This activity focuses on how to know if a person who is unable to speak or has speaking related impairment is having pain and what to do about it.

    • Pain Assessment

      Review Learning Objectives

  • Week 2

    Non-Pharmacological Pain Treatment

    • Many Dimensions of Pain

      Pain involves many dimensions that can affect the way it is expressed in how it responds to treatment. It is expressed in many ways, both within the person and as the person relates to others.

    • Integrative Therapy

      Integrative Therapies are healing practices that focus on the relationship between the provider and whole-person, including the mind, body and spirit, to improve health and healing.

    • Traditional Body-based Therapies

      We'll take a look at various traditional, physical body-based therapies to lessen pain such as physical therapy.

    • Nontraditional Body-based Therapies

      We'll take a look at various nontraditional physical and body-based therapies to lessen pane such as aroma therapy, acupuncture, and yoga.

    • Mind Body Therapies

      We'll review some of the more common mind-body therapies used alone or with medications to improve pain relief.

    • Topical Therapies

      Topical therapies are widely used prescription or over-the-counter remedies applied to the skin for various conditions including pain.

    • Non-Pharmacological Pain Treatment Assessment

      Review learning objectives

  • Week 3

    Medication Management (including over the counter and non-opioid medicines)

    • Easing Pain with Non-Opioids

      In this activity, we will learn about medications that can help pain, but are not opioids.

    • What Non-Opioids to Use and When?

      We will learn about which opioids are often needed to treat more severe pain.

    • Common Side Effects

      In this video, we'll review some common side effects to watch out for when using pain medications.

    • Medication Management Assessment

      Review learning objectives

  • Week 4

    Opioids, Safety, and Addiction

    • Easing Pain with Opioids

      In this activity, we will learn more about opioid medicines.

    • Opioids in Pill and IV Form

      This activity will help you understand some of the main ideas about how to use opioids in a safe and helpful way.

    • Changing From One Opioids to Another

      After this activity, you should have some understanding of which opioids are strongest and how to safely convert a pill dose to an IV dose.

    • Addiction, Pseudo-Addiction, Physical Dependence, and Tolerance

      When helping people with opioid pain medications, it is important that you understand the difference between addiction, pseudo-addiction, physical dependence and tolerance.

    • Opioid Safety and Addiction Assessment

      Review Learning Objectives

  • Week 5

    Easing Pain: Assessment

    • Easing Pain Assessment

      Review Learning Objectives

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Explain pain and recognize causative factors and types of pain in the seriously ill.
  • Practice a multidimensional pain assessment of the palliative care patient.
  • Identify nontraditional and common integrative strategies to enhance patient comfort and satisfaction.
  • Investigate various classes of non-opioid pain medications to know how they work differently.
  • Describe the mechanism of action of opioids to know when to use them, in addition to non-opioid pain medications, for pain management.
  • Develop a comprehensive plan of care for management of a patient with pain.

Who is the course for?

This course is primarily designed for healthcare providers working with seriously ill patients and their families. This includes nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and allied health professionals (e.g. social workers, spiritual care providers, mental health professionals, therapists).

It will also be valuable for families, friends, and communities supporting the seriously ill.

Who will you learn with?

Who developed the course?

University of Colorado

The University of Colorado is a recognized leader in higher education on the national and global stage. We collaborate to meet the diverse needs of our students and communities. We promote innovation, encourage discovery and support the extension of knowledge in ways unique to the state of Colorado and beyond.

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$134/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 23 Aug 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

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