University of Technology Sydney

96825 Pharmacology in Palliative Care

Warning: The information on this page is indicative. The subject outline for a particular session, location and mode of offering is the authoritative source of all information about the subject for that offering. Required texts, recommended texts and references in particular are likely to change. Students will be provided with a subject outline once they enrol in the subject.

Subject handbook information prior to 2024 is available in the Archives.

UTS: Health
Credit points: 3 cp

Subject level:


Result type: Grade and marks


This subject advances students’ existing understanding of pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetics related to medications frequently used in palliative care to ensure they have the knowledge and skills required to contribute to optimal provision of person-centred care for those with a life limiting illness and/or approaching the end of life. Students apply the principles of net clinical benefit to medicine decisions for people with life-limiting illness including those with co-morbidities. There is a particular focus on understanding what aspects of management and assessment are valuable when providing tailored person-centred comfort-focused palliative care.

Target Audience
This subject is designed to meet the educational needs of pharmacists, physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, and other registered allied health care professionals who manage patients with palliative care needs.

Subject learning objectives (SLOs)

Upon successful completion of this subject students should be able to:
A. Examine and interpret the key principles of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics applied to common symptom control medicines for people living with life-limiting illness.
B. Justify and apply the principles of net clinical benefit to medicine decisions for people with life-limiting illness including those with co morbidities.
C. Integrate the delivery of person-centred palliative care in medication management and prescribing applying detailed knowledge of pharmacology and individual goals of patient and/or their carers.

Course intended learning outcomes (CILOs)

This subject also contributes specifically to the following graduate attributes:

  • Inter-professional collaboration: Prioritise inter-professional collaborative practice to ensure the highest quality palliative care for all (3.0)
  • Create adaptive professionals who continuously analyse, critique and reflect on their role (5.0)

Teaching and learning strategies

The subject will be delivered exclusively online, enabling students to participate remotely. Students will be actively engaged in enquiry-based learning through a range of multimedia interactive activities, including those involving collaboration with others. The online learning platform ‘Canvas’ will be used for all subject materials and announcements. A range of teaching and learning strategies are designed to encourage you to engage in developing optimal palliative care clinical and physical assessment.

Orientation activities
Preparation for the Session - students are expected to undertake activities prior to the first week, especially given that everyone will have different levels of expertise. These activities include online readings, videos, interaction with peers, and are important in helping students prepare for the subject's Assessment Tasks. This also provides students with an opportunity to meet and interact with peers. Students will learn through independent learning activities, group work, peer review, and participation in the Zoom meetings.

Independent learning activities
Relevant readings, videos and activities will be made available online relevant to the topic of the week. Students are expected to come to Zoom meetings prepared. This will enhance the students’ ability to progress successfully throughout the subject and complete assessment items effectively. The online material aims to enhance students’ understanding of the topic or delve deeper into a more specific area, compare experiences and ideas with others, and gain feedback. Information and links to all these learning activities can be accessed via Canvas as well as the subject outline.

Zoom meetings
Zoom meetings will provide opportunities for group activities and discussion, self-assessment, peer review and formative feedback from the subject coordinator. Zoom meetings will be conducted at a time that enables the majority of students to contribute. Students are strongly encouraged to attend the Zoom meetings as these prepare students for the subject’s Assessment Tasks.

Feedback will be frequent and takes several forms including self-assessment, peer review, automatic feedback through Canvas from interactive activities e.g. quizzes, and from the subject interdisciplinary teaching staff. Formative feedback throughout the subject aims to increase student performance at summative assessments.

Content (topics)

  • Revision materials (Definitions; Models/ calculations; WHY framework)
  • Introduction to key principles of pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of medicines used in common symptom relief in palliative care.
  • Safe administration of medications in a clinical environment.
  • Regulatory frameworks relating to palliative care medicines.
  • Latest evidence available resources.
  • Pharmacokinetic (PK) and pharmacodynamic (PD) Curves
  • Managing co-morbidities and deprescribing
  • Pharmacological strategies in complex symptom management of palliative care patients including pain (e.g. opioid management), GUT dysfunction symptoms, respiratory complications, neurological and psychological symptoms, fatigue symptoms, heart failure & managing terminal care symptoms.
  • Managing life-limiting illnesses other than cancer
  • Medicinal cannabis symptom management in palliative care.
  • Off-Label use of medications in palliative care


Assessment task 1: Quiz


The online exam reviews the realistic problem-oriented tasks, material and concepts covered throughout the subject through active learning activities, palliative care practices, and Zoom sessions.

The online exam provides opportunity for the student to apply their learning to clinical and case-based questions, assess their knowledge and their clinical application of:

  • Pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and pharmaceutics of medicines, and how these affect physiological, biochemical and pathophysiological processes within palliative care, including understanding PK curves
  • Therapeutic and adverse effects, contraindications and precautions for medicines.
  • Safe administration of medications in the clinical environment

This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B and C

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

3.0 and 5.0

Type: Quiz/test
Weight: 50%

60 minutes with 10 minutes reading time

Assessment task 2: Case study Report


Person-centred palliative care includes medication management and changing prescribed medicines based on not only on goals of care, but also as part of a logical deductive process based on comprehensive and objective information that involves the patient and or carers at the centre of care and management decisions. Therefore, confidence in medication management and prescribing is achieved using detailed knowledge of pharmacology applied to individual patients.

This assessment task provides an opportunity to apply the background knowledge required for medication management to explore the pharmacology and implications of medication use. The task also provides clinicians with the opportunity to acquire advanced knowledge to ensure patient goals of care are met when administering medications.


This assessment task addresses subject learning objective(s):

A, B and C

This assessment task contributes to the development of graduate attribute(s):

3.0 and 5.0

Type: Report
Weight: 50%

1800 words +/- 10% (excluding references and appendices)

Other resources

UTS Student Centre
Building 10

Monday to Friday: 9am - 5pm
Tel: 1300 ASK UTS (1300 275 887)

Details for student centres:

For other resources/ information refer to the Faculty of Health website ( and Canvas at:

UTS Library
The Library has a wide range of resources, facilities and services to support you including textbooks, subject readings, health literature databases, workshops and bookable study rooms. There is also a team of librarians to help you with your questions available via online chat, phone and in person. W:, Facebook: utslibrary, Twitter: @utslibrary Tel: (02) 9514 3666.

Improve your academic and English language skills
Marks for all assessment tasks such as assignments and examinations are given not only for what you write but also for how you write. If you would like the opportunity to improve your academic and English language skills, make an appointment with the HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support) Service in Student Services.

HELPS (Higher Education Language & Presentation Support)
HELPS provides assistance with English language proficiency and academic language. Students who need to develop their written and/or spoken English should make use of the free services offered by HELPS, including academic language workshops, vacation intensive courses, drop-in consultations, individual appointments and Conversations@UTS ( HELPS staff are also available for drop-in consultations at the UTS Library. Phone (02) 9514 9733.

Please see for additional information on other resources provided to students by UTS.

The Accessibility and Financial Assistance Service
The Accessibility Service can support students with disabilities, medical or mental health conditions, including temporary injuries (e.g., broken limbs). The Accessibility Service works with Academic Liaison Officers in each Faculty to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ such as exam provisions, assistive technology, requests and strategies for managing your studies alongside your health condition. If you’re unsure whether you need assistance, we recommend getting in touch early and we can provide advice on how our service can assist you. Make an appointment with an Accessibility Consultant (AC) on +61 2 9514 1177 or

The Financial Assistance Service can assist you with financial aspects of life at university, including Centrelink information, tax returns and budgeting, interest-free student loans and grants to assist with course-related costs. Check eligibility and apply online and make an appointment on +61 2 9514 1177 or