Skip to main content

Secondary navigation:

William F. Connell School of Nursing

Palliative Care Nursing Elective Courses

william f. connell school of nursing

Connell School of Nursing faculty meet with hospice resident

What is hospice and palliative care nursing?

Hospice and palliative care nursing practice is defined by the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center (HPCC) as the provision of nursing care for the patient and family, with emphasis on their physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs when experiencing a life-threatening illness and through bereavement. This is accomplished in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team. Care focuses on quality of life, symptom management and family support (

What are the palliative care elective courses?

Consistent with the Jesuit values and mission of Boston College, the palliative care elective courses at the William F. Connell School of Nursing focus on the art and science of caring for and relieving the suffering of individuals living with serious chronic, life-threatening and life-limiting illnesses. Equally important, advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) learn how to support family members throughout the changing disease course and prepare them for all outcomes.  Students enrolled in the Palliative Care elective courses learn how to ease distress and support patients and families through culturally sensitive communication, symptom management and support in decision-making. 

The goals of the Palliative Care Elective Courses are to:

  1. educate advanced practice nurses (CNSs and NPs) and APN students to provide culturally appropriate, sensitive palliative nursing care;
  2. improve access to expert, quality and comprehensive nursing care for seriously ill populations facing life-threatening illnesses; and
  3. increase the number of number of nurses from diverse backgrounds who are educated to provide this care.

What palliative care courses are offered? Who may take them?

  • NURS7640* Palliative Care I: Foundations of Life-Threatening Illness, Disease Progression, and Quality of Life (3 credits) This course will provide an intensive historical, sociopolitical and cultural perspective of the personal, professional, societal, cultural, spiritual, and ethical/legal issues related to serious illness and the end of life. The philosophy, principles, and models of palliative care are analyzed, as well as the role of the advanced practice nurse and others in a caring society. Students develop an understanding of the processes of illness, coping, facing death, and quality of life at various stages of the life cycle.  Students develop communication and counseling strategies, and other bio/psycho/social/spiritual strategies to maximize quality of life and assist individuals and families while receiving care for serious illness in various settings.
  • NURS7641*/NURS7645* Palliative Care II: Pain and Suffering in the Seriously Ill (3 credits) This course will provide an intensive focus on improving the quality of life, care and dying of individuals and families experience life-threatening illness through nursing assessment and interventions to relieve pain and suffering. Established palliative care standards will be utilized to evaluate the outcomes of such care. Management of pain and barriers to effective pain relief are discussed in depth.  Patient care strategies to improve quality of life, relieve pain and alleviate suffering are discussed within the context of advanced practice nursing.
  • NURS7643* Palliative Care III: Palliative Care and the Advanced Practice Nursing Role (3 credits)
    This course will provide advanced content relating to assessment and alleviation of complex symptoms relating to care of patients and families experiencing serious life-threatening illness. Students will analyze the impact of such illness on patient, family, community and the health care system. Resource availability and barriers to care are analyzed with the context of various settings. The leadership role of the advanced practice nurse in palliative care is delineated with emphasis on policy development, protocols, standards of practice, fiscal management, research utilization, quality improvement, patient advocacy, ethics, social-cultural issues and the role of the nurse leader in the interdisciplinary team. Students will participate in professional team meetings, family meetings and patient support groups.

    *May not be offered every year. Check course offering schedule.

Palliative care courses may be taken to fulfill elective requirements by students who are enrolled in any of the graduate programs at the William F. Connell School of Nursing. Non-matriculated students and graduate students enrolled in other schools within Boston College may also register for these courses on a space-available basis.

Is there a certification mechanism for hospice and palliative care nurses?

The Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center (HPCC) offers certification examinations for hospice and palliative care RNs, pediatric hospice and palliative care RNs, hospice, and palliative care advanced practice nurses (CNSs or NPs), and others.  

Completion of coursework does not meet the requirements to take the HPCC certification examination. At this time, the HPCC does not require advanced training or coursework in palliative care. APRNs must document that they have worked at least 500 hours as an APRN in a hospice or palliative setting in order to apply to take the certification exam. 

Information about HPCC certification requirements and application procedures is available on the organization’s website: