Interprofessional Master of Science in Palliative Care: On Becoming a Palliative Care Community Specialist

J Palliat Med. 2020 Oct;23(10):1370-1376. doi: 10.1089/jpm.2019.0108. Epub 2019 Dec 30.


Background: Palliative care (PC) is a limited resource in health care systems. Many providers develop a PC interest later in their careers when it is difficult to relocate and compete for a limited number of training positions. In communities without an academic tertiary medical center, interprofessional PC community specialists are poised to deliver high-quality accessible PC to patients/families with needs beyond what can be addressed by primary care providers. Objective: An interprofessional 36-credit Master of Science in Palliative Care (MSPC) provides evidence-based education to nurses, pharmacists, physicians, physician assistants, social workers, spiritual care providers, psychologists, counselors, and other allied health professionals. Design: The predominantly online curriculum, designed and taught by an interprofessional faculty, focuses on interdisciplinary teamwork, communication skills, and practical application of biomedical and psycho-sociocultural-spiritual-ethics content. The pedagogy is narrative based, emulating in-person clinical experiences, with patient cases progressing throughout the curriculum. We have enrolled four student cohorts. Measurements: Student self-assessments pre-mid-post program. Results: Students highly rate curriculum with demonstrated application of knowledge in case integration assignments, simulations with standardized patients, and Capstone Projects. Students' self-assessed skills on a 39-item scale increased on average to the highest level of 5 (able to perform independently and teach others). Conclusions: The inaugural student cohort reports high levels of engagement and satisfaction, including mastery and synthesis of didactic and experiential content through case integration projects. Students who worked in PC/hospice settings have advanced in their professions; others have transitioned to PC work. The MSPC has capacity to meet projected PC workforce gaps.

Keywords: distance learning; interprofessional education; palliative care; palliative care community specialist.

MeSH terms

  • Curriculum
  • Health Personnel / education
  • Hospice and Palliative Care Nursing*
  • Humans
  • Interprofessional Relations
  • Palliative Care*
  • Specialization