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Palliative Care Certificate

Our Palliative Care Certificate centers on training master’s level nurses to provide the kind of care that preserves quality of life while reducing suffering and addressing the physical, intellectual, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of the patient, while simultaneously supporting patient autonomy. 

As defined by the World Health Organization, palliative care is, “an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problems associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual.” Palliative care is a perfect match with nursing and other disciplines that deal with persons and populations with advanced serious illness and includes careful, holistic assessment of patients’ symptoms and their response to illness and treatments.

Our program

We are among a small number of nursing schools in the United States to offer the opportunity for specialization in palliative care. In our program, you will learn to work throughout the continuum of illness, addressing the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of your patients while bolstering their autonomy and access to information. This high-demand specialty is relevant for all types of nursing practice, including gerontology, oncology, pediatrics, home care, and mental health.

Our internationally recognized faculty lead research, national agendas, and practice in palliative care. Our faculty members are at the forefront in shaping the field of palliative care in the United States. Unfortunately, as stated in the Institute of Medicine’s report Dying in America: Improving Quality and Honoring Individual Preferences Near the End of Life, (a report that our own faculty Salimah Meghani contributed to), there is a shortage of palliative care providers and there are not enough formal education programs to meet the needs of patients and families.  This lack of formal education was reaffirmed when Penn nursing faculty members Patricia Pawlow, Caroline Doherty, and Mary Ersek published “The hospice and palliative care advanced practice registered nurse workforce: Results of a national survey” in the Journal of Hospice & Palliative Nursing.


Our Palliative Care Certificate is comprised of two required coursesPrinciples of Palliative Care and An Evidence-based Approach to Managing Symptoms in Advanced Illness—and one elective course of your choosing.

These courses have content that is important to all nurses and nurse practitioners. For this reason, we allow students to enroll in these courses as electives even if they do not elect to enroll in the minor. Principles of Palliative Care can also be taken by undergraduate students as a case study (Nurs367).  Current masters students can access the minor form here.


Please note that this certificate does not specifically prepare you to sit for the Hospice and Palliative Care Credentialing Center’s Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (ACHPN┬«) exam. There are a minimum palliative care practice hours required to be exam-eligible and our program does not include a clinical component.