Palliative Medicine for Health Care Professionals (MSc)

This multidisciplinary programme is designed for healthcare professionals wishing to advance their knowledge of the management of patients with non-curable and terminal illness.

The MSc in Palliative Medicine for Health Care Professionals provides high quality distance education for clinicians working with neonates, children and adults in many different settings in all parts of the world. At the core of its design and delivery is the desire to improve patient outcomes wherever palliative care is practiced by its students and to enhance the quality of palliative care through research and quality improvement. 

Using the palliative care approach as defined by the World Health Assembly in 2014 (WHO 2014) is an increasingly important imperative for health care professionals throughout the world in order to meet the palliative care needs of their populations. Although cancer as a burden of disease remains an issue globally, there are rising numbers of patients, including neonates and children, with palliative care needs from other conditions. These include learning disability, dementia, frailty and elderly people with multiple co-morbidities.  

The vision of the course is to improve patient care by delivering accessible education through which we aim to support health-care professionals to develop, share and extend their knowledge, understanding and application of evidence based medicine, best practice and governance frameworks in palliative care appropriate to their own professional settings.  

The taught stages (years 1 and 2) cover the core understanding, frameworks, challenges and research evidence relevant to optimising and developing the practice of palliative medicine and palliative care. The MSc (year 3) provides the opportunity for students to identify an issue of importance in their own practice and carry out an evidence based project intended to contribute to knowledge and practice in palliative medicine and palliative care. 

Distinctive features

The course covers the palliative care needs of patients regardless of diagnosis, recognising the global need for palliative care knowledge and skills.

Our online course materials include interactive quizzes, reading materials, audio podcasts and short video clips to widen access to learning and make it more engaging. The course work offers a variety of assessments enabling you to demonstrate the application of knowledge gained into your own practice and particular work setting. 

Since 1989 we have aimed to recruit and deliver education to the global palliative care community. Alumni of the course have held such positions as the National Clinical Director for End of Life Care for NHS England, the CEO of Worldwide Palliative Care Alliance and have developed and lead palliative care globally (for example, Bosnia, South Africa, India, Singapore, Hong Kong and Nepal). The international conference held in Cardiff in 2014 (‘Cardiff 25’) marked these achievements.

Key facts

Next intakeSeptember 2017
Duration3 years
QualificationMSc
ModePart-time - distance learning
Admission Tutor contact(s)

Admissions criteria

In addition to satisfying the requirements of the Cardiff University General Entrance Requirement, at the discretion of the relevant Board of Studies, applicants must normally:

  • Be graduates in medicine or a profession allied to medicine (nursing, physiotherapy, occupation therapy, pharmacy and dentistry), or nurses with the RGN qualification.

AND

  • Have current professional registration with the appropriate health professional regulatory body for their chosen health care profession.

AND

  • Be working in a clinical role including caring for patients with palliative care needs and having gained at least 2 years’ post-qualification experience in this setting.

In order to complete the course assessments, students will need to maintain the last two aspects (current professional registration and working in a clinical role including caring for patients with palliative care needs) throughout the duration of their studies. 

Candidates should demonstrate an acceptable standard of academic English, as detailed in Cardiff University’s English Language Policy. Formative and summative assessments are normally conducted through the English language and students must have an adequate standard in the use of English prior to commencing the programme.

Senate Regulations allow for processes of module exemption and admission with advanced standing and in the event an applicant wishes to have prior academic credit considered (APL) these will be followed. The programme will not normally accept applications for APEL. 

 

Application deadline: 31st May each year.

The MSc consists of three stages – “stage T1” (first taught stage), “stage T2” (second taught stage) and “stage R” (research dissertation stage):

Stage T1 lasts for one academic year, and consists of 3 modules at least to the value of 60 credits at Level 7.

Stage T2 continues for a further academic year to a total of 2 academic years for stages T1 & T2, and consists of a further 3 modules at least to the value of 60 credits at Level 7, to achieve a combined total of at least 120 credits at Level 7 to complete the taught stages.

Stage R continues for a further academic year to a total of 3 academic years for the full MSc (stages T1, T2 & R), and includes a dissertation of 60 credits at Level 7, to achieve a combined total of at least 180 credits at Level 7 to complete the MSc programme.

The total normal duration to complete the full MSc programme is three academic years (stages T1, T2 & R), from the date of initial registration on the programme.

A Postgraduate Certificate (“PgCert”) in Palliative Medicine for Health Care Professionals exit point is available for students successfully completing a minimum of 60 credits, only where these include the award of credit for all ‘required’ core modules from stage T1 plus one optional module from stage T1.

A Postgraduate Diploma (“PgDip”) in Palliative Medicine for Health Care Professionals exit point is available for students successfully completing a minimum of 120 credits, only where these include the award of credit for all ‘required’ core modules from stages T1 and T2, plus one optional module from stage T1.

A student’s dissertation, which shall normally be of not more than 20,000 words and supported by such other material as may be considered appropriate to the subject, shall embody the results of his/her period of project work. The subject of each student’s dissertation shall be approved by the Chair of the Board of Studies concerned or his/her nominee.

The dissertation shall be assigned 60 credits and, in combination with the taught stage(s), shall be weighted 50% for the purpose of calculating the final mark:

  • Taught modules (stages T1 and T2) - 50%.
  • Dissertation (stage R) - 50%.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2018/19 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2018.

Year one

Year 1 introduces core knowledge, principles and frameworks, essential communication skills, the evidence underpinning symptom assessment, symptom management and interventions, and dilemmas encountered when delivering palliative care in complex and challenging situations. It is therefore a foundation for optimising practice in palliative care in the student’s own setting. 

 

Year two

The second year builds further on the evidence based approach underpinning year 1 and explores the complexities involved in end of life care, as well as opportunities to develop in other important aspects including the development of effective team working, leadership and change management, research and quality improvement. It is therefore a springboard for enhancing and developing practice and for undertaking leadership in palliative care. 

 

Year three

The MSc dissertation stage (year 3) provides the opportunity for students to identify an issue of importance in their own practice and carry out an evidence based project intended to contribute to knowledge and practice in palliative care. This would be either a research project (empirical research, critical literature review) or a quality improvement project (developing business cases, proposals or guidelines) and relate to real-world challenges in palliative care.

The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

How will I be taught?

This is a blended learning programme incorporating short face-to-face components but is predominantly delivered though distance-learning via Cardiff University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), where students will find course materials, links to related resources and assessments.

Each taught module will be delivered by distance learning over a period of normally 12 weeks. Online teaching and support is also available during the MSc stage.  Learning materials relating to the syllabus will be available for students to study in preparation for completing assessments designed to enable students to demonstrate they have met the learning outcomes of the module.

At the beginning of each academic year on the programme, there will be a face-to-face interactive course of normally up to 5 working days. All students are required to attend this component each year. Whilst students enrolled on the Cardiff University MSc in Palliative Medicine for Health Professionals are not charged an attendance fee for the face-to-face component, students are expected to fund all other costs of attending including their own travel, accommodation, subsistence and any other personal expenses. The face to face component will take place in Cardiff, UK unless otherwise published. The face to face components provide an opportunity to meet the staff and other students and are designed to support learning through various means including talks, workshops/exercises and peer discussion. They are a valuable aspect of the programme encouraging group and peer support for learning so as to enhance the learning experience.

Throughout the taught stages there are opportunities to acquire knowledge and understanding through a variety of means including independent study, reflective practice, peer discussion, workshops and tasks/exercises, communication skills practice and self-assessment, reviewing learning materials and lectures (podcasts). 

During the face-to-face component we take the opportunity to introduce concepts that are not easily taught through a VLE, including communication skills sessions facilitated by experienced tutors in small groups, offering a chance to practice these skills.

Each module has its own learning outcomes. Students have the opportunity to demonstrate they have met these learning outcomes via the formative and summative assessments contained within each module. The teaching and learning material presented in the online and face-to-face components is aligned with the learning outcomes to support students’ learning. 

During the dissertation stage (stage R, year 3), each student is allocated a Dissertation Project Supervisor to support them in completing their project and writing up their dissertation. Studies at MSc dissertation level will largely consist of guided independent study and research, making use of the extensive learning and research facilities available including learning material provided via Cardiff University’s online learning platform.

How will I be supported?

The programme is delivered as distance-learning via Cardiff University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), where students will find course materials, links to related materials and assessments. Facilities include online discussion tools to facilitate tutor and peer support for learners. 

The Face-to-Face component at the beginning of year 1 allows students to meet other course staff and library/IT staff to sort out any registration or other issues. 

Tutors are available to advise students regarding any academic issues. The role of the tutor is not to read or mark assignment drafts, but they are able to communicate with students about any particular topic that they may find challenging. Specific feedback is also given to students once an assignment has been marked. This makes use of a marking scheme for the particular assignment. Students are welcome to discuss this feedback with a tutor. 

During the MSc dissertation stage each student will be allocated a Dissertation Supervisor who will guide their planning and advise them as they complete their projects.

All students are allocated a Personal Tutor, for help and support with academic and pastoral needs, who they can contact to discuss progress and to obtain advice and guidance as needed. 

Feedback

Formative feedback will be communicated to the students through electronic and written means in a timely manner.  Summative feedback on assessment will be delivered within the timeframe set by the University.

How will I be assessed?

The assessments have been chosen to ensure that the learning outcomes are appropriately tested and provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate they have met them. Specific assessment methods for each module are detailed within the relevant Module Description.

Formative and summative assessment is through module assignments including methods such as: case reflections, critical appraisals, online quizzes, creating posters, opinion pieces, communication strategies or proposals. Standardised marking schemes will be used for all summative assessment and the feedback provided for each completed assignment to guide the student for future assignments.

The dissertation stage will be assessed based on the final dissertation. The dissertation will be assigned 60 credits and, in combination with the taught stage(s), shall be weighted 50% for the purpose of calculating the final mark.

 

What skills will I practise and develop?

By fully engaging in this course, you will have the opportunity to develop a wealth of skills and abilities you can apply to any professional setting. In addition to greater conceptual understanding of current knowledge, issues and methods, you will have the opportunity to practise and develop abilities in critical analysis, in the application of evidence based medicine and in dealing with complex issues systematically and creatively. Your studies should also help you develop your problem-solving and decision-making abilities by enabling you to utilise evidence effectively and communicate important concepts to colleagues and others. Through any research focused elements you will have the opportunity to develop and enhance skills in aspects such as literature review, critical evaluation and knowledge of research principles.

By fully engaging in the taught stages you should be able to:

  • Develop a systematic understanding of knowledge, core principles, frameworks in the field of palliative medicine and palliative care promoting well informed clinically efficient practice. 
  • Critically appraise current thinking and evidence behind palliative care interventions
  • Work more effectively with other professionals and inter-professional team working to enhance the delivery of patient centred palliative care. 
  • Develop a comprehensive approach to symptom management in inter-professional palliative care settings. 
  • Demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of the complexities of palliative care in challenging situations in relation to legal and ethical issues, the wider health care team and wider community. 
  • Critically assess and develop approaches to managing the last year of life, the last hours of life, death and bereavement.
  • Explore ways in which team working and leadership can impact on the delivery of palliative care. 
  • Appraise different approaches to measuring, researching and improving the quality of palliative care. 
  • Develop proposals for research projects demonstrating a sound understanding of research design, methodology and ethics. 
  • Develop proposals for quality improvement projects demonstrating a sound understanding of appropriate design, methodology and ethics.  

In addition to the learning outcomes to be achieved during the taught stages, by fully engaging in the MSc dissertation stage you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate an in-depth knowledge of specialised and/or complex area(s) of study, and an ability to relate these to their own professional context. 
  • Complete a comprehensive project that demonstrates good practice in research / quality improvement and contributes to the development of the body of knowledge and/or clinical practice in the field. 

The course delivers Masters level education and thus enables you to demonstrate you are taking the opportunity to develop your abilities in critical analysis, problem-solving, decision-making, finding and using evidence and in dealing with complex issues in palliative care.

Whilst we do not formally assess clinical skills or competencies in a face to face context (so the course is not a substitute for a formal specialty training programme), studying at this level should help successful students demonstrate numerous academic skills that should be highly regarded in relation to their career development and progression. In particular, the course offers opportunities to demonstrate the development of knowledge and skills in relation to the application of evidence based medicine and the potential enhancement of services and governance frameworks in palliative care. As such, if should provide evidence of commitment and potential that may assist you in relation to taking on greater responsibilities or perhaps seeking management, research, scholarship or leadership roles in palliative care. 

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2017/18)

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.

Students from outside the EU (2017/18)

Get the latest information on postgraduate fees.