Graduate Certificate Palliative Medicine

Course Features

  • Enables clinicians to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to provide a palliative care approach in clinical practice.
  • Taught course, developed to meet the needs of GPs and hospital-based doctors.
  • Approved by ICGP for CPD and GMS study leave
  • Includes a flexible approach to teaching & learning with fifty per cent of lecture content delivered online.
  • Emphasis on interpersonal skills and empathetic communication.

Course Overview

This programme has been developed to meet the needs of doctors caring for people with life-limiting illnesses and to facilitate the translation of best practice from the specialist palliative care setting to other environments.


Please note that this programme has now been replaced by a Masters in Palliative Care programme which is coordinated by the UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery and Health Systems.  Graduate Diploma and Graduate Certificate options also exist.

Further Information: MSc in Palliative Care

Who Should Take This Course?

This course is primarily targeted towards:

  • General practitioners
  • Hospital-based clinicians

Modules are delivered via a flexible teaching and learning structure that recongnises the demands placed on busy clinicians.

What Will I Learn?

Course overview

Palliative Care provides integrated, multi-dimensional care of the terminally ill person and their family. This programme aims to provide a solid foundation in the philosophy and principles of palliative care and understanding of how these are applied in clinical practice across a range of life-limiting illnesses and in a variety of settings.

CPD and study leave

The course is approved by the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP) for:

  • 13 GMS study leave sessions
  • 43 external CPD credits

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the philosophy, principles and social context of palliative care practice.
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the concept of need and critique current approaches to palliative care service delivery across the lifespan.
  • Critically analyse the roles and function of the multidisciplinary team in palliative care practice.
  • Critically appraise the principles of effective communication and demonstrate an understanding of the importance of interpersonal skills in empathic communication.
  • Review and critically appraise strategies for the management of the physical symptoms associated with life-limiting illness and reflect on own practice in this area.
  • Review and critically appraise strategies for the management of the psychosocial and emotional issues associated with life-limiting illness and reflect on own practice in this area.
  • Demonstrate a critical understanding of the nature of personhood in the context of life-limiting illness and critically analyse and reflect on their own clinical practice in the management of grief, loss and bereavement.
  • Critique frameworks for ethical decision-making and demonstrate the ability to apply this knowledge in specific patient and family care situations.


The Philosophy, Principles And Social Context Of Palliative Care

The emergence of Palliative Care as a philosophy and a mode of practice in the mid 20th century led to fundamental changes in the care of people affected by life-limiting illness. This module explores the development of the hospice movement from sociological and philosophical perspectives. It describes the impact that historical trends have had on community perceptions of death, dying and bereavement and explores how these trends continue to shape and influence the organisation and practice of palliative care services today. The module identifies the concept of ‘need’ and examines current and future provision of palliative care services. It considers the current and future challenges in the provision of palliative care services, including the provision of palliative care to people with non-malignant disease. 

Pain and Symptom Assessment and Management in Palliative Care 

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness. This is achieved through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other physical, psychosocial and spiritual problems. The practice of palliative care addresses multi-dimensional symptomatology from multi-disciplinary perspectives.

This module provides students with an understanding of approaches to symptom assessment in palliative care practice and with strategies for the management of physical symptoms associated with life-limiting illness. It enables students to critically reflect on their usual practice and to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes to provide effective, high quality care to people with life-limiting illness.

Psychological, Spiritual And Ethical Aspects Of Palliative Care Practice

Palliative Care practice is an integrated model focussed on holistic care of the patient with a life-limiting illness, and their families. Palliative care practice embodies specific principles which address multi-dimensional needs across a spectrum of life-limiting illnesses and care settings. This module will provide students with knowledge and understanding of the psychological and spiritual aspects of palliative care provision.

Students will review strategies for the management of psychological and spiritual issues affecting people with life-limiting illness. They will also gain skills in effective communication and ethical decision-making.

Personhood and loss in the context of life-limiting illness

‘Patient’ comes from the Latin patiens,meaning to endure, bear, or suffer, and refers to an acquiredvulnerability and dependency imposed by changing health circumstances. As patients face the end of life, their sense of personhood is often altered in fundamental ways. This module describes the manner in which palliative care recognises the uniqueness of each person and how this forms the central focus of the therapeutic relationship. Concepts of personhood and theories of loss, grief and bereavement are examined.

Students will also critically examine the concept of ‘resilience’, which has been described as a ‘universal capacity which allows a person, group or community to prevent, overcome or minimize damaging effects of adversity’ (Newman, 2004). They will critically explore how resilience work can enhance the resources of individuals to use at times of threat, even within the limited timeframe of a dying trajectory.

How/Where Will I Learn?

Course structure

The Post Graduate Certificate consists of 4 modules run sequentially over two semesters (September to December and January to May).  The programme is the product of collaboration between UCD, the Centre for Postgraduate Medical Education at the Dublin Academic Medical Centre and St Francis Hospice. As such, students will be taught by a variety of experienced clinicians, researchers and academics.

Online learning

The structure of the programme acknowledges the time limitations that face doctors who are in full-time employment and adopts a flexible approach to teaching and learning in order to provide a blend of education that meets students’ needs. Over half of the course is delivered by distance learning and there is an emphasis on interactive learning methods based on individual student knowledge and experience in order to foster the development of reflective approach to solving complex problems.


Face-to-face teaching will take place in the Catherine McAuley Education Centre at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, Dublin 7 and at St Francis Hospice, Raheny.

Am I Eligible for this Course?

Eligibility criteria

  • Applicants must have a medical degree.
  • Applicants must also meet English language requirements.
  • Applicants must have access to the internet / be computer literate

International Applicants

  • International applicants should contact the academic programme director for a full list of entry requirements.
  • A list of FAQs for international applicants is available here.

Application Details

We are currently NOT accepting applications to this programme.  You may be interested in the Masters in Palliative Care programme delivered by our colleagues in the UCD School of Nursing, Midwifery & Health Systems, which also offer Graduate Certificte and Graduate Diploma options.