Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences

POPLPRAC 722 - Symptom Management in Palliative Care

15 Points

Semester 1



Assessment and management of pain, nausea and vomiting, respiratory symptoms, delirium, and other symptoms commonly encountered in palliative care and at the end of life, together with an overview of palliative care emergencies, the role of radiotherapy in symptom management, and issues around nutrition and hydration at the end of life.  

Programme and course advice

This course is multidisciplinary in approach and suitable for students eligible for postgraduate study. Health professionals who have fulfilled the admission requirements for postgraduate study are able to enrol in this course.

A Palliative Care specialisation will be available from 2016 on fulfilling the required criteria towards a Postgraduate Certificate/Diploma Health Sciences (Palliative Care).

Postgraduate nursing students who wish to enrol in a Postgraduate Diploma in Health Sciences are advised to contact the School of Nursing for guidance on a recommended pathway and core courses that need to be completed.

POPLPRAC 723 Advanced Symptom Management in Palliative Care is offered in the second semester as a follow up to this course.This course is multidisciplinary in approach and suitable for students eligible for postgraduate study and engaged in clinical work with a palliative care component. Nursing students who are registered nurses with a minimum of two years clinical experience are eligible to apply.

Other courses that may be of interest are POPLHLTH 746 Ethics, Culture and Societal Approaches to Death, POPLPRAC 720 Psychosocial Issues in Palliative Care, POPLPRAC 702 Primary Mental Health, and POPLPRAC 724 Child and Adolescent Palliative Care.

Learning and teaching

This course is delivered in distance mode and includes one 2-day seminar in Auckland. Course details and information including access to digitised readings and assessments are online and will be made accessible on Canvas at the beginning of the semester. Broadband internet connection is recommended for easy access to online resources and assessments.

Goals of the course

  • To introduce the student to the principles of pain and symptom management in advanced life limiting disease and at the end of life
  • To encourage inquisition in and understanding of person care and symptom management within the Palliative Care approach
  • To develop the student's clinical assessment skills through case based teaching, lectures, interaction and the varied course work
  • To enhance the student's understanding of the use of opioids, other analgesics and medications used in the management of common symptoms
  • To promote reflective practise in the student's own professional development and in palliative care delivery at the work place
  • To support and develop the student's case presentation skills within the clinical setting of the workplace, both in the didactic and written forms

Learning outcomes 

At the completion of the course the student will

  • Have gained knowledge in the pathophysiology of disease states and symptoms and become more familiar with the principles of assessment and management within the palliative care approach
  • Be better enabled to assess symptoms including those associated with emergencies, identify and carry out timely investigations including clinical history and examination, pre-empt complications or morbidity and when possible prevent distress
  • Be better skilled to critique and evaluate the appropriateness of investigations and interventions including complimentary therapies, necessary for optimal patient-based outcomes
  • Be able to access the literature and other sources of evidence, then to incorporate and apply what is known as current best practice into symptom management
  • Be better equipped with skills that demonstrate evidence of reflection on clinical practice and to identify areas for his/her professional development
  • Be able to apply knowledge into practise, and actively participate in the delivery and development of optimal palliative care at the work place
  • Be more confident in patient advocacy through case discussion and presentation


  • Two written assignments 35% each
  • Three short cases (vignettes) – case based (300 words each) 10% each

Learning resources

It is recommended that you have access to the following texts:

  • Cherny, N., Fallon, M., Stein, K., Portenoy, R. and Currow, D. (eds)(2015)Oxford Textbook of Palliative Medicine 5th edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Twycross, R., Wilcock, A. and Howard, P. (2014). Palliative Care Formulary. 5th Edition. Abingdon: Radcliffe Medical Press.
  • Twycross, R. G., Wilcock, A., & Stark Toller, C. (2009). Symptom management in advanced cancer (4th ed.). Nottingham, England: Palliativedrugs.com.
  • MacLeod, R., Vella-Brincat, J. & MacLeod, A. D. (2016). The Palliative Care Handbook, 8th Edition. New Zealand

Course coordinator

Course administrator

Teaching Staff