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​Interprofessional Graduate Certificate and Master of Science in Palliative Care Programs


What is Palliative Care?


Palliative care is specialized care for people with serious and life-limiting illnesses. It is focused on providing patients with relief from pain and non-pain symptoms, and supporting patients and family caregivers through expert psycho-social-spiritual support to better manage the stress of a serious illness—whatever the diagnosis. The goal is to improve quality of life for both the patient and the family caregiver. Palliative care is provided by a team of nurses, physicians, physician assistants, social workers, spiritual care providers, mental health providers, and other specialists who work together with a patient to provide an extra layer of support. Palliative care is appropriate at any age and at any stage of a serious illness and can be provided along with curative treatment.

Become a Palliative Care Community Specialist

The University of Colorado's Interprofessional Graduate Certificate and Master of Science in Palliative Care (MSPC) prepares providers—physicians, nurses (including BSN and advanced practice nurses), physician assistants, pharmacists, social workers, spiritual care providers, psychologists, therapists, counselors and ethicists — to be Palliative Care (PC) Community Specialists. PC Community Specialists provide high quality palliative consultation and care to patients and families in their own communities, giving them the choice of treatment outside an academic tertiary medical center. Additionally, PC Community Specialists, representing secondary palliative care, are linked to tertiary care experts through this comprehensive educational program. PC Community Specialists bridge a network of services to better support the needs of patients and family caregivers across the continuum of illness and care settings.


Palliative Care has been recognized as an important and scarce resource in healthcare systems throughout the United States. The 2014 Institute of Medicine Report (IOM) “Dying in America,” documented that the care provided for patients and families at the end of life fails to meet the need for the “Delivery of Person-Centered, Family Oriented Care” and that patients who received palliative care were more likely to have their preferences for care honored with better pain and non-pain symptom control. 

Theoretical Construct of Palliative Care Community Specialist


The concepts of primary, secondary, and tertiary palliative care described below are defined by Dr. Charles von Gunten in an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association (2002)​.

Primary Palliative Care: Basic palliative care skills and competencies that all providers should have (e.g., basic pain and non-pain symptom management strategies, goals of treatment discussions).

Secondary Palliative Care: Specialist clinicians and organizations that provide specialty care and consultation. The goal of the Masters of Science in Palliative Care would be to produce PC Community Specialists to meet the need for secondary palliative care provision (e.g., advanced symptoms, psycho-social-spiritual care, goals of care discussions and involvement in quality improvement activities related to palliative care).

Tertiary Palliative Care: Academic medical centers where specialist knowledge for the most complex cases is practiced, researched and taught. This is where board-certified and/or fellowship-trained specialists would provide palliative care for the most complex cases (e.g., complex/refractory symptoms, existential distress, complex goals of care discussions, conflict resolution, formal involvement in teaching, ongoing quality improvement and safety initiatives, and research to further the field of palliative care) the mission, governance and curriculum of [eligible] programs shall demonstrably emphasize public service values.



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