• UC Denver logo

Palliative Care: Providing Psychosocial and Spiritual Support

Aid the emotional and spiritual well-being of patients living with serious illnesses through comprehensive palliative care.

Three people sitting together, The woman is holding her hands on her head. The man is talking with open hands to her and the third person is observing with a clipboard.

Palliative Care: Providing Psychosocial and Spiritual Support

  • 5 weeks

  • 3 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

Deploy patient-centred care strategies to enhance end-of-life support

Serious and life-threatening illnesses often impact the emotional and spiritual well-being of patients and their support network. Ensuring they have the right resources and care is essential in helping them cope.

Join the University of Colorado on this five-week course to discover ways to address common psycho-social-spiritual concerns in palliative care. You’ll gain insights into easing suffering, managing anxiety, and providing meaningful support for patients and their families facing serious and life-limiting illnesses.

Ease pain and suffering by spotting the signs of psychosocial distress

You’ll start this course by exploring common ways illnesses can affect emotional and spiritual well-being and lead to stress.

Explore coping strategies for seriously ill patients and their support networks suffering from anxiety and depression

Create strategies that ease patient suffering and help manage anxiety, death anxiety, grief, depression, and spiritual distress. You’ll also learn how to plan for and administer end-of-life care.

Advocate for advanced care planning

By the end of this course, you’ll learn how to plan your healthcare future. Attain the skills to set goals, decide treatment plans, select a power of attorney, and speak with loved ones.

Learn more about palliative care from the University of Colorado

Throughout this course, you’ll be guided by the University of Colorado’s team of experts, many of whom are qualified healthcare professionals specialising in palliative care.

If you’re interested in delving further into palliative care, the University of Colorado offers several other courses on pain management, whole-person assessment, and easing psycho-social-spiritual distress. Find them[here] (https://www.futurelearn.com/partners/university-of-colorado-system).


  • Week 1

    Introduction to Common Psycho-Social-Spiritual Concerns

    • What are Common Psycho-Social-Spiritual Concerns?

      We will look at some common psychological concerns for people who have serious and life-limiting illnesses.

    • Anxiety and Coping With Serious Illness

      In palliative care, our goal is to ease suffering for the whole person. Easing suffering improves the patient's quality of life. Pain and suffering are two different types of experiences.

    • Help! I Feel Out of Control!

      The palliative care approach will support patients and families to help bring some order to their lives when they feel out of control, also called chaos.

    • Who Can I Count On When I'm Sick?

      In this activity, we'll consider relationship concerns. People with serious and life limiting illnesses need a lot of support from other people.

    • What About Intimacy?

      The importance of quality of life including sexual health grows as well. A person's need for physical closeness to touch and be touched is crucial and dramatically affects quality of life.

    • Can I Afford the Care I Need?

      In this activity, we're going to explore how financial distress impacts individuals living with serious and life-limiting illness and their families.

    • Introduction to Common Concerns Assessment

      Review Learning Objectives

  • Week 2

    How Sad Is Too Sad?

    • How Sad Is Too Sad?

      In this activity, you'll learn about sadness related to serious and life-limiting illness. It's normal to feel sad and even hopeless about what's happening.

    • Grief: Waves of Sadness

      You'll learn about the types of losses people may experience with serious illness. Serious and life-threatening illnesses affect more than just the patient. Illness also affects family members and non-family care providers.

    • Caregivers Also Grieve

      Providing care can also be a challenging experience. Caregivers are exposed to losses and grief within the web and they have their own losses and grief to manage.

    • Life Has Lost Its Meaning

      In this activity, we will talk about what it looks like when patients or family members dealing with serious or life-threatening illness feel like life has lost its meaning — also known as Demoralization Syndrome.

    • Sadness That Lingers

      Many people who have serious and life limiting illnesses experience depression. It's the most common mental health problem in palliative care.

    • Desire For Hastened Death

      We'll review risks and signs that someone with a serious illness wishes to die sooner than death would naturally occur.

    • How Sad Is Too Sad Assessment

      Review Learning Objectives

  • Week 3

    Anxiety and Coping

    • Anxiety and Coping With Serious Illness

      In this activity, we will learn about why people with serious or life-limiting illnesses may feel anxious.

    • Death Anxiety

      Death anxiety includes feelings of dread, apprehension, and fear when thinking about the process of dying. Here, we will look at anxiety about death and dying.

    • How You Can Help Ease Anxiety

      Your relationship with the palliative care patient and family is important. We will talk about ways you can help ease anxiety related to serious illness.

    • How Do People Cope With Serious Illness?

      Coping means trying to manage stressful or challenging experiences. Let's talk about how people respond to or cope with serious illness.

    • Provide Support and Care in the Last Days of Life

      Here, we are going to learn about providing support and care for someone in the last days of life.

    • Comfort Care Plans

      It is important to determine what the patient's preferences for care are and then document and honor them. We'll review how to develop a plan of care that provides support for patients and families in their last days of life.

    • Care of the Body

      Once someone has died, the care does not stop there. The healthcare professional continues to care for the body and grieving loved ones.

    • Anxiety and Coping Assessment

      Review Learning Objectives

  • Week 4

    Easing Spiritual Distress

    • Easing Spiritual Distress

      We will discover how people living with serious and life-limiting illnesses might experience spiritual distress.

    • Respectful Spiritual Conversations

      Spiritual conversations focus on people's core values. Let's learn how to have respectful spiritual conversations.

    • Why is Meaning Making Important?

      Let's explore why it is important for us to be aware of how people make meaning of serious illness.

    • Ways to Understand Serious Illness

      In this activity, we will look at ways to understand serious illness.

    • Spiritual Distress or Spiritual Crisis?

      Let's look at the difference between spiritual struggles, spiritual distress, and spiritual crisis.

    • Miracles and Hope

      Palliative care patients and family members may talk about their hope for miracle treatments or miraculous recoveries, especially near the end-of-life.

    • Easing Spiritual Distress Assessment

      Review Learning Objectives

  • Week 5

    Advocating Advance Care Planning, Shared Decision Making, Goals of Care, and Family Meetings: “We Cannot Direct the Wind But We Can Adjust the Sails.”

    • Everything You Want To Know About ACP

      Let's consider what's important to you for your future healthcare.

    • What is an Advance Directive (AD)?

      Explore the Advanced Directive planning process and see which one works for you.

    • Advocating For The Seriously Ill Person

      Talking with your loved ones about end-of-life care is important. This activity will give you the skills and knowledge needed to make this process simpler and easier to understand.

    • Medical Durable Power of Attorney (MDPOA)

      Here, we will talk about how and who you should pick to be your healthcare decision maker.

    • What If We Didn't Talk About It?

      The role of the healthcare decision-maker for someone who is seriously ill can be overwhelming. Learn more about how to decide care when a conversation was not made with the ill person.

    • What Should I Say?

      Talking with your loved ones about your own wishes can be difficult. Learn more about how to approach this discussion.

    • Goals of Care

      All people have hopes, desires, wishes, and goals for how they want to live their lives. Goals of care are important to identify because these are the center around which all medical treatments should resolve.

    • PERSON

      In this activity, we will discuss a simple way to unfold goals of care with patients and family caregivers.

    • You Mean I Get To Decide?

      Learn more about the approach that allows patients and clinicians to work together to make decisions, choose tests, and decide on treatment plans.

    • Family Conference

      Family conferences are the ideal place to have all the interested individuals discuss goals of care. It is a great place for the seriously ill person to talk about what is important to them.

    • Martha Sturdivant

      Here, we will learn about Martha Studivant's story and case study.

    • Advocating Advance Care Planning, Shared Decision Making, Goals of Care, and Family Meetings 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...

  • Identify common psychological, social, and spiritual concerns to provide whole person care to people with serious illnesses.
  • Explain loss, grief, and mourning to provide palliative care to the whole person.
  • Describe how serious and life-threatening illnesses may affect financial resources in order to help people cope with these challenges.
  • Evaluate when a person is experiencing spiritual distress or spiritual crisis to provide help or refer the person to an expert provider.
  • Identify goals of care and the role this plays in a person's health care.
  • Apply communication skills to help patients and family express their own preferences for care in the last days of life.

Who is the course for?

This course is designed for healthcare providers working with seriously ill patients and their families, including nurses, doctors, pharmacists, and allied health professionals.

It’ll also be helpful for family and community members of 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.

Ways to learn

Subscribe & save

Buy this course

Limited access

Choose the best way to learn for you!

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

$134/one-off payment


Develop skills to further your careerFulfill your current learning needSample the course materials
Access to this courseticktick

Access expires 23 Aug 2024

Access to 1,000+ coursestickcrosscross
Learn at your own paceticktickcross
Discuss your learning in commentstickticktick
Certificate when you're eligibleDigital onlyPrinted and digitalcross
Continue & Upgrade

Cancel for free anytime

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)

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

Want to know more about learning on FutureLearn? Using FutureLearn

Do you know someone who'd love this course? Tell them about it...