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Palliative Care Always

Wednesday, January 6, 2016
Course topic: 

PCA PROMO V4 with 5sec of black


We are excited to have you join our community of participants interested in improving quality of life for patients and families experiencing serious illness. 


Palliative care can help ease suffering and improve wellbeing in people living with serious illnesses such as cancer.

Palliative Care Always is an online, case-based course for health care practitioners who work in cancer care. We believe that incorporating the principles of palliative care—symptom management, goals of care and effective communication—into clinical practice can improve the quality of life for our patients and their support systems. We also believe palliative medicine can improve quality of life for clinicians. We’ve designed this course to educate you about palliative medicine and how it integrates with oncology, and to help you develop primary palliative care skills. Our hope is that you feel increasingly equipped to support the diverse needs of your patients and your own needs as a healthcare provider.

Palliative Care Always features presentations from a variety of Stanford palliative medicine clinicians as well as video scenes with a fictional patient experiencing colon cancer. The course also includes interactive discussions with other participants to learn from role play and practical experiences.

By the end of the course clinicians will be able to:

  • Describe the scope and role of palliative care as part of a patient and family’s care plan 
  • Describe the components of an interdisciplinary treatment plan for physical, psychosocial, and spiritual care, including screening, assessment and management of patient needs
  • Practice basic symptom and distress management and determine when to involve palliative care specialists for extra support
  • Describe the issues around transitions in care (e.g. survivorship or hospice transition) and key needs for patients and caregivers at these times 
  • Respond to common caregiver needs throughout the care continuum
  • Practice effective communication skills with other healthcare providers, patients, and their families; including responding to emotion, coaching in self-management of symptoms and distress, and discussing goals of care


This course is ideal for nurses, social workers, oncologists, patients and families. No prior experience with palliative medicine or cancer care is necessary.


This course was developed by faculty members in Palliative Medicine at the Stanford Health Care. Your course moderator is Erika Tribett, MPH. 

Course Staff Image #1

Kavitha Ramchandran MD

Kavitha Ramchandran MD, graduated with an undergraduate degree in Human Biology from Stanford University, did medical school and residency training in medicine at University of California, San Francisco and completed her fellowship in Medical Oncology and Palliative Medicine at Northwestern University, Chicago. She joined faculty at Stanford University in 2007. Currently she is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine in the Division of Oncology and Division of General Medical Disciplines. 

Contributing faculty include:

  • Ellen Brown, MD - Physician and Medical Director of Pathways Hospice 
  • Kelly Bugos, MA RN ANP-BC - Nurse Practitioner and Manager of the Survivorship program at Stanford Health Care
  • Sandy Chan, LCSW - Social worker and Manager of Outpatient Palliative Care at Stanford Health Care
  • Joshua Fronk, DO - Palliative care physician at Stanford Health Care
  • Lynn Hutton, MSW - Social work fellow at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital
  • Ed Kilbane, MD - Psychiatrist
  • Lori Klein, BCC - Chaplain and Director of Spiritual Care Services at Stanford Health Care
  • Judy Passaglia, RN MS ACHPN - Palliative nurse and Manager of Inpatient Palliative Care at Stanford Health Care
  • Kim Sickler, CNS - Palliative nurse specialist at Stanford Health Care


The course is a series of twelve modules. Each module will introduce you to a specific aspect of palliative medicine—from effective communication and symptom management to addressing goals of care and specific types of distress. You will learn tips and tools to help you screen for palliative needs and offer basic palliative care. 

Module 1: Introduction to Palliative Care

Module 2: Communicating with Families and Patients

Module 3: Psychosocial Support

Module 4: Goals of Care

Module 5: Pain Assessment and Management

Module 6: Nausea and Fatigue Management

Module 7: Survivorship

Module 8: Spiritual Care

Module 9: Psychological Support

Module 10: Child Social Support

Module 11: Hospice Care

Module 12: Reflection

Each module consists of four main sections: 

  • Reading and Reflection - description
  • Scenes with Sarah - description 
  • Lecture - description
  • Interactive Group Discussion - description


Each week, faculty will post a video that answers your questions and discusses current issues related to the week's topic. Questions may be submitted Wednesday through Sunday, and videos will be posted by Tuesday of the following week.


Each module will close with a discussion session with a small group of your peers. The goal is to practice and reflect on the skills you’ve picked up during each module and learn from others in the course. Each discussion will last approximately 45 minutes. The platform we will use for online discussions is called Talkabout. In order to access Talkabout, you will need to make sure your computer is set up to use Google Hangout. Please follow the instructions here to load and join Talkabout.

If you prefer not to use Talkabout, you can complete these discussions in person or in another manner of your choice. In order to receive credit for these discussion sessions, you will need to submit a 100-word response that reflects on your experience. The free response is located in the "Talkabout Discussion" section of each module. 


How much time will I spend on this course each week?

It varies, as some of the modules contain more content than others. In general, you should expect to spend between 2 and 3 hours on Palliative Care Always each week. This accounts for light reading, watching videos, answering assessment questions and participating in interactive discussions.

Can I obtain a Statement of Accomplishment for this course?

Yes. To receive a "Statement of Accomplishment" for this course (i.e., a passing grade), you must receive a score of at least 75%. 

Are there required assignments?

For those who are interested in a Statement of Accomplishment, grades include completion of Assessment questions throughout all 12 modules (50%), submission of reflection posts on the course discussion forum (25%), and participation in interactive discussion sessions (25%). Of course, you are welcome to do only the components of the course you are interested in, if the grade doesn't matter to you.