Palliative Care

By Aedín Dunne - Last update

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Palliative care is an essential part of some people’s lives and can make their everyday life that bit easier as well as their families lives. Do you want to be one of these people who can make a difference? A caring and helpful nature is essential. If you fit the bill, keep reading. 

What is palliative care?

Palliative care is a holistic care that focuses on relieving the pain and symptoms for those who are suffering from illness including those of all ages regardless of their diagnosis or the stage of their illness. The aim of palliative care is to provide care to help improve peoples’ quality of life who are limited by their illnesses as well as aid their families. 

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland offer courses in this area. Examples of course titles offered include:

  • Care of Older Person
  • Contemporary Palliative Care Practice
  • Palliative Care
  • Palliative Care and End of Life Care
  • Nursing – Palliative Care
  • Specialist Practice – Palliative Care 

Studying palliative care in college

There are many QQI courses available in the area of Palliative Care to help you progress to further study. The majority of courses in Palliative Care are postgraduate courses and are studied over a one or two year period, depending on the course and the University you choose. Generally, you will have to have experience of working in similar settings and with clients and their families in a healthcare role. 

Studying palliative care courses may also provide you with the opportunity to study specialised areas within this area and range from lectures to practical work. You will gain the opportunity to enhance your expertise and gain a better understanding of complex illnesses and issues and how to care for those and their specific requirements to a high standard. 

You will learn the importance of caring and helping clients and their families who deal with physical, psychological and spiritual issues they face everyday. Courses in this area address the suffering and dignity of those who need care as well as their specific medical needs.  

It is also possible to get a QQI Level 8 Certificate in Contemporary Palliative Care which can be used as a stepping stone into a Palliative Care course, should you want to specialise in the area. You can also get a Graduate Diploma or Graduate Certificate in the subject. 

Career options

When working in palliative care you will have the skills and knowledge required for caring for patients with life limiting illnesses who require this kind of care. You may work in different settings from hospitals, nursing homes, care homes, private residents and it is also a career that can take you nationally and internationally. 

Like many jobs in the healthcare sector, it can be both a physically and mentally draining job but rewarding. Some essential skills and qualities to have while working in this area include excellent communication skills, interpersonal skills, patience, a caring nature, kind, empathetic, a critical thinker, work well with others and work well under pressure, a desire to help others, stamina, passionate and a problem solver.

Those who have worked in the healthcare area and have experience of caring for others often opt to specialise in palliative care as the majority of jobs in the area will require this. It is common for nurses, healthcare workers and similar to continue their study in this area. 

There is also the option of research and taking your degree in the direction of lecturing or teaching classes in the area. 

Related jobs

  • Palliative care nurse
  • General nurse
  • Psychiatric nurse
  • Intellectual disability nurse
  • Healthcare worker
  • Social care worker
  • Nursing home healthcare assistant 

Further Study 

If you are looking for a postgraduate course to suit you, you can explore your options at Some also may be interested in continuing their studies at PhD level. 


What do I need to get into a palliative care course?

As the majority of Palliative Care courses are in the postgraduate bracket, an undergraduate degree in a related field, eg. nursing is often essential. To go that route, you will have to focus on your undergraduate degree first and foremost. Different courses and different colleges will have different entry requirements. It’s always safest to check with the individual higher education institution which is available on their websites. As a general rule Leaving Cert students should have a minimum of six subjects which should include: Two H5 (Higher Level) grades and Four O6 (Ordinary Level) grades or four H7 (Higher Level) grades. Subjects must include Mathematics, Irish or another language, and English. 

To continue to a postgraduate degree in Palliative Care, a bachelor’s degree in your relevant field will be needed. Some courses accept a 2.2 degree while the majority require a 2.1 degree. 

Certain QQI Awards in a relevant area are also accepted. These change from course to course so be sure to research further. 

Where can I study?

You can explore your options here.

Did you know?

  • The largest bone in the body is the femur and it can support 30 times the weight of a person’s body. 
  • By the time a person reached 70 years of age, on average, they will have consumed over 12,000 gallons of water.


Aedín Dunne

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