POPLPRAC 720 : Psychosocial Issues in Palliative Care

Medical and Health Sciences

2022 Semester One (1223) (15 POINTS)

Course Prescription

The psychological and social study of patients with cancer or active, progressive disease, unresponsive to curative treatment. Existential philosophy and models of coping with suffering, communication in palliative care, psychiatric disorders in palliative care, and bereavement.

Course Overview

This 15 point course is one of four core courses in the postgraduate Palliative Care specialisation. The content has been planned by clinicians for practitioners working with people with a life limiting and end-of-life illness. The course uses an interprofessional focus that reflects teamwork within palliative care for person and family centred care. 

The course will enable the student to develop an awareness and understanding of the psychosocial impact of life threatening illness on patients in their context of whanau ora and partnership with the care team, whilst also reflexively reflecting on their own attitudes, behaviours, coping and communication styles.  The advanced set of skills that results will enhance their ability to work therapeutically with patients and families facing/following life threatening illnesses in the spirit of the framework of Te Whare Tapa Wha.

Course Requirements

No pre-requisites or restrictions

Course Contacts

Course Director: 
Ruth Choi Lee
Email: ruth.choilee@auckland.ac.nz
The team are grateful to the clinical specialist speakers who contribute their time and knowledge to this course. 

Course Administrator:
Mrs Upendra Wickramarachchi
Group Services Administrator
Email: u.wicks@auckland.ac.nz

Capabilities Developed in this Course

Capability 1: Disciplinary Knowledge and Practice
Capability 2: Critical Thinking
Capability 3: Solution Seeking
Capability 4: Communication and Engagement
Capability 6: Social and Environmental Responsibilities
Graduate Profile: Master of Health Sciences

Learning Outcomes

By the end of this course, students will be able to:
  1. Undertake and evaluate a comprehensive assessment of palliative psychosocial needs in obtaining patient history using a joint approach with family/whanau;Te Arotaki Hiahia (Assessment of Needs) (Capability 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 4.1 and 4.2)
  2. Define what spirituality means to them personally and reflect on the ways that impact their responses on patients and family/whanau;Te Arotaki Hiahia (Assessment of Needs) (Capability 1.1, 1.2, 2.1 and 2.2)
  3. Create patient centred care plans cognisant of the manifestations of life-threatening illness, using advanced communication skills in the context of family and their local community; Include in a care plan a patient’s need for intimacy and sexuality with their partners using a sensitive approach in conversation with them;(Developing the care plan) (Capability 1.1, 1.2, 4.1 and 4.2)
  4. Demonstrate a collaborative communication style, which enables a patient/family/whanau to involve their social networks and community resources to plan care in end-of life ;Te tautawhi whanau me nga kaitautoko (Supporting and caring for the family, whanau and carers). (Capability 3.1, 3.2, 4.1, 4.2, 6.1 and 6.2)
  5. Understand and distinguish between between normal and abnormal grief reactions and apply this knowledge and relevant skills to assist patient/family/whanau through their bereavement and loss; Implement a self-care strategy that describes appropriate boundary setting in response to emotional distress in self and others assisted by personal reflective skills;Te tautoko me manaaki papouri (Grief Support and Bereavement care) (Capability 1.1, 1.2, 2.1, 2.2, 3.1, 3.2, 4.1, 6.1 and 6.2)
  6. Identify and describe appropriate services within care plans to assist with transitions between care agencies for person and whanau centred care, using reflective and reflexive practice to continually assess and update the care plan as needed.Te Whakarite mahere manaaki tangata (Developing the care plan)Te Whakawhitinga o nga ratonga (Transitions within and between services) (Capability 1.1, 1.2, 3.1 and 3.2)


Assessment Type Percentage Classification
Journaling introduction-non graded 0% Individual Coursework
Journaling Part 1 30% Individual Coursework
Journaling Part 2 30% Individual Coursework
Case Studies 40% Individual Coursework
Assessment Type Learning Outcome Addressed
1 2 3 4 5 6
Journaling introduction-non graded
Journaling Part 1
Journaling Part 2
Case Studies

Workload Expectations

This course is a standard 15 point course and students are expected to spend 8-10 hours per week involved in each 15 point course that they are enrolled in. 

For this course, you can expect a block of 2 two days of lectures, 8-10 hours per week of reading and thinking about the content and work on assignments.

Delivery Mode

Campus Experience

The class teaching and activities for the course are scheduled as block delivery in two seminars of two days each. Attendance is expected at scheduled activities in the course seminars to complete components of the course.
Seminar PowerPoint presentations will be made available after the in-class sessions. 

Learning Resources

Course materials are made available in a learning and collaboration tool called Canvas which also includes reading lists and lecture recordings (where available).

Please remember that the recording of any class on a personal device requires the permission of the instructor.

Recommended learning resources are listed in the course outline on Canvas. Additionally reading resources have been compiled to give the student a platform of information for the topics to be covered in the course. These are listed in Canvas and students are able to access these when they enrol. Some additional resources will aslo be given in class by speakers and powerpoint presentations made available with the speakers' approval. 

Student Feedback

At the end of every semester students will be invited to give feedback on the course and teaching through a tool called SET or Qualtrics. The lecturers and course co-ordinators will consider all feedback and respond with summaries and actions.

Your feedback helps teachers to improve the course and its delivery for future students.

Class Representatives in each class can take feedback to the department and faculty staff-student consultative committees.

Your feedback helps teachers to improve the course and its delivery for future students. 

Academic Integrity

The University of Auckland will not tolerate cheating, or assisting others to cheat, and views cheating in coursework as a serious academic offence. The work that a student submits for grading must be the student's own work, reflecting their learning. Where work from other sources is used, it must be properly acknowledged and referenced. This requirement also applies to sources on the internet. A student's assessed work may be reviewed against online source material using computerised detection mechanisms.

Class Representatives

Class representatives are students tasked with representing student issues to departments, faculties, and the wider university. If you have a complaint about this course, please contact your class rep who will know how to raise it in the right channels. See your departmental noticeboard for contact details for your class reps.

Inclusive Learning

All students are asked to discuss any impairment related requirements privately, face to face and/or in written form with the course coordinator, lecturer or tutor.

Student Disability Services also provides support for students with a wide range of impairments, both visible and invisible, to succeed and excel at the University. For more information and contact details, please visit the Student Disability Services’ website http://disability.auckland.ac.nz

Special Circumstances

If your ability to complete assessed coursework is affected by illness or other personal circumstances outside of your control, contact a member of teaching staff as soon as possible before the assessment is due.

If your personal circumstances significantly affect your performance, or preparation, for an exam or eligible written test, refer to the University’s aegrotat or compassionate consideration page https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/academic-information/exams-and-final-results/during-exams/aegrotat-and-compassionate-consideration.html.

This should be done as soon as possible and no later than seven days after the affected test or exam date.

Learning Continuity

In the event of an unexpected disruption, we undertake to maintain the continuity and standard of teaching and learning in all your courses throughout the year. If there are unexpected disruptions the University has contingency plans to ensure that access to your course continues and course assessment continues to meet the principles of the University’s assessment policy. Some adjustments may need to be made in emergencies. You will be kept fully informed by your course co-ordinator/director, and if disruption occurs you should refer to the university website for information about how to proceed.

The delivery mode may change depending on COVID restrictions. Any changes will be communicated through Canvas.

Student Charter and Responsibilities

The Student Charter assumes and acknowledges that students are active participants in the learning process and that they have responsibilities to the institution and the international community of scholars. The University expects that students will act at all times in a way that demonstrates respect for the rights of other students and staff so that the learning environment is both safe and productive. For further information visit Student Charter https://www.auckland.ac.nz/en/students/forms-policies-and-guidelines/student-policies-and-guidelines/student-charter.html.


Elements of this outline may be subject to change. The latest information about the course will be available for enrolled students in Canvas.

In this course students may be asked to submit coursework assessments digitally. The University reserves the right to conduct scheduled tests and examinations for this course online or through the use of computers or other electronic devices. Where tests or examinations are conducted online remote invigilation arrangements may be used. In exceptional circumstances changes to elements of this course may be necessary at short notice. Students enrolled in this course will be informed of any such changes and the reasons for them, as soon as possible, through Canvas.

This course has just been through a regular review by a panel of university academics and palliative care clinicians. Their recommendations have been integrated with the assistance of the Teaching and Learning Unit of the university.