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NRSG265 Principles of Nursing: Medical

Unit rationale, description and aim

The Registered Nurse plays a central role in the provision of health care for people who experience health alterations which result in progressive decline in health and ultimately death. Health alterations occur across a range of settings and it is a requirement that the nurse is able to provide care for people experiencing these alterations. This unit is required by students to assist their ongoing development of theoretical knowledge underpinning palliative care for the person, family and significant others who are experiencing a life limiting illness. 

This unit will enable students to develop the knowledge and skills required to enable provision of quality, holistic, evidence based nursing care of the person and family with a life limiting illness. Key principles that underpin best practice will be demonstrated by the use of evidence-based case studies. The nurse’s role in the provision of palliative care will be explored across a variety of settings and patient journeys within a context interprofessional care. The content contained within this unit is instrumental in informing nursing students’ future clinical practice across a variety of settings. 

The aim of this unit is to support students to develop an understanding of an evidence based palliative care within a range of care settings, the trajectory of the illness and the lifespan of the person.

Learning outcomes

To successfully complete this unit you will be able to demonstrate you have achieved the learning outcomes (LO) detailed in the below table.

Each outcome is informed by a number of graduate capabilities (GC) to ensure your work in this, and every unit, is part of a larger goal of graduating from ACU with the attributes of insight, empathy, imagination and impact.

Explore the graduate capabilities.

Learning Outcome NumberLearning Outcome DescriptionRelevant Graduate Capabilities
LO1Articulate advanced understanding of developmental, lifespan, social, spiritual and cultural factors that impact on the quality of life for people receiving palliative careGC1, GC2, GC3, GC5, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC10, GC11, GC12
LO2Critically apply the models of nursing across the lifespan, to the principles of a palliative careGC1, GC2, GC3, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC10, GC11, GC12
LO3Implement critical thinking and clinical reasoning through the utilization of advanced knowledge of pathophysiology across a range of settings, to plan safe, evidence-based, culturally sensitive, person-centred palliative care;GC1, GC2, GC3, GC5, GC6, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC10, GC11, GC12
LO4Critically reflect on the lived experiences of the dying, their families and communitiesGC1, GC2, GC3, GC5, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC10, GC11, GC12
LO5Critically evaluate the quality use of medicines, non-pharmacological therapeutic interventions and complementary therapies in the palliative contextGC1, GC2, GC3, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC10, GC11, GC12
LO6Critically apply legal and ethical principles related to the palliation experienceGC1, GC2, GC3, GC7, GC8, GC9, GC10, GC11, GC12

NMBA Standards for Practice

The Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia’s Registered Nurse Standards for Practice developed in this unit are:

Standard/Attributes/CriteriaLearning Outcomes

Thinks critically and analyses nursing practice.

1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.5, 1.6, 1.7

LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO6

Engages in therapeutic and professional relationships.

2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4, 2.5, 2.7

LO3, LO4

Maintains the capability for practice.

3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, 3.7

LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6

Comprehensively conducts assessments.

4.1, 4.2, 4.3, 4.4

LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6

Develops a plan for nursing practice.

5.1, 5.3

LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO6

Provides safe, appropriate and responsive quality nursing practice.


LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5, LO6

Evaluates outcomes to inform nursing practice.

7.1, 7.2, 7.3

LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4


Topics will include:

  • Principles of a palliative approach
  • Philosophy and definition of palliation
  • National Palliative Care Standards
  • Community perceptions about death, dying and bereavement in contemporary society across cultures
  • Values and beliefs about death and dying and impact on care interactions
  • Dying trajectories and impact of differing diagnosis e.g., cancer; chronic disease
  • Promoting dignity in care relations
  • Role of the family in palliative approaches
  • Role of the nurse and interprofessional team in a variety of settings
  • Caring for self and others including the impact of personal stressors; the experience of loss and grief and bereavement care
  • Communication in a palliative approach
  • Skills of effective communication
  • Respect for the diverse human and clinical responses of each person and their family
  • End of life discussions and issues including advanced care planning, organ donation and the role of family conferences
  • Role of culture and the impact on the interpersonal relationships between the person, family and nurse
  • Principles for practice
  • Concept of promoting comfort and alleviating suffering
  • Assessment and evidence-based management of common symptoms
  • Treatment options
  • Pharmacology
  • Complementary therapies
  • Supportive interventions (spiritual, social, psychological)
  • Person centredness in caring
  • Role of interprofessional team and sectorial partnerships
  • Applying the clinical reasoning cycle in palliative practice

Optimising function in a person with a life limiting illness

  • Identification of needs
  • Concept of promoting independence across the dying trajectory
  • Role of rehabilitation
  • Interventions (physical, psychological and social) to promote function

Learning and teaching strategy and rationale

Modes of delivery in this unit include lectures, tutorials, online activities and self-directed study. Consistent with adult learning principles, the teaching and learning strategies used within these modes of delivery will provide students with foundational knowledge and skills relevant to professional nursing practice. These strategies will also support students in meeting the aim, learning outcomes and graduate attributes of the unit and the broader course learning outcomes. Learning and teaching strategies will reflect respect for the individual as an independent learner. Students will be expected to take responsibility for their learning and to participate actively with peers.

Students exiting university need significant life-long learning skills to deliver sound, ongoing, evidence-based graduate practice as a member of the professional workforce. To embed life-long learning skills students must demonstrate increasing reflective capacity to identify what is being done well and what requires additional work in progressing toward required learning outcomes. Located in the third year of the programme, this theory unit includes some face-to-face teaching hours and an increased online component of learning. Online lectures are utilised to convey content and central principles while tutorials provide an opportunity to consolidate students’ understanding of content through collaboration and discussion. Tutorials deliver interactive and student-driven learning sessions to extend the community of learners, and increase their self-reliance, critical reflection and debate. Online materials provide students with the opportunity to undertake directed, self-motivated study and continue to transition to  independent study and life-long learning.

Assessment strategy and rationale

A range of assessment items consistent with University assessment requirements and policy will be used to ensure students achieve the unit learning outcomes and attain the graduate attributes.

Third year students continue their transition towards independent learning. In this unit, there are two 50% assessment items, therefore the importance of each item is higher in terms of achievement of unit learning outcomes and graduate attributes. The professional development resource is aimed at new graduate level nurses working in a palliative care setting. Using palliative care content, the students adopt the level of expectation and knowledge of the new graduate in considering their practice. The written critique requires students to demonstrate an understanding of how theory translates into care and how evidence underpins best practice. Skills necessary for graduate practice include critically appraising and synthesising evidence to drive best practice. An understanding of graduate knowledge and expectations will assist with the transition for student to graduate practitioner. 

These assessments are required to build student knowledge and skills which, by the conclusion of this programme, will enable the student to graduate as a safe and effective nurse. 

Overview of assessments

Brief Description of Kind and Purpose of Assessment TasksWeightingLearning Outcomes

Professional Development Resource

Enables students to demonstrate their understanding of the palliative approach and the promotion of best practice in the clinical area. 


LO1, LO2, LO3, LO5, LO6

Written Critique (2,000 words)

This assessment enables students to articulate an understanding of how theory translates into care and how evidence underpins best practice within the palliative approach. 


LO1, LO4, LO6

Representative texts and references

Australian Government Department of Health. (2021). Advance Care Directive.

Holland, K., Jenkins, J., Solomon, J., & Whittam, S. (2019). Applying the Roper-Logan-Tierney Model in practice-E-Book. Elsevier. 

Larkin, P. (2015). Compassion: The essence of palliative and end-of-life care. Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.

Levett-Jones, T. (2017). Clinical Reasoning: Learning to think like a nurse. Pearson.

Macauley, R. C. (2018). Ethics in palliative care: A complete guide. Oxford University Press.

Matzo, M., & Sherman, D. W. (Eds.). (2018). Palliative care nursing: Quality care to the end of life, (5th ed). Retrieved from https://ebookcentral.proquest.comWittenberg, E. (2016). Textbook of palliative care communication. Oxford University Press.

Palliative Care Australia. (2018). National Palliative Care Standards 5th Edition.

Palliative Care Curriculum for Undergraduates (PCC4U). (2020). For Learners.

Wittenberg, E. (2016). Textbook of palliative care communication. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press. 

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