Available July 1, 2022 for Aquifer Curricular Partners
Aquifer Excellence in Palliative Care provides foundational knowledge and practical clinical application of the principles of palliative care that every clinician should know to improve outcomes and quality of life for seriously ill patients and their families.


Aquifer – supported by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations – has developed a national, standardized curriculum and online course that addresses critical gaps in palliative care learning across undergraduate medical and health professions education.

Why Primary Palliative Care?

Although palliative care is an established specialty, all clinicians should have the skills to provide patient-centered care. This course focuses on primary palliative care, reaching beyond the specialty—moving toward overcoming clinician shortages, lack of access, and lack of training—to teach what every medical and health professions student should know to improve outcomes and quality of life for seriously ill patients and their families.

Vision: Improve the capacity of the US health professions student to deliver humanistic, compassionate interprofessional care centered around patient goals of care and quality of life by applying evidence-based methods to alleviate the suffering of seriously ill patients and their families through the delivery of primary palliative care.

Learn More

As of July 1, Excellence in Palliative Care will be available for subscription as part of Aquifer’s Clinical Excellence Case Sets offering. Paired with other key interdisciplinary topics, this new package provides access to 52 short cases. As part of this upgrade, a new principles module will also be added to Aquifer Excellence in Palliative Care. Learn more…

Palliative Care Project Report

  • Available by subscription as of July 1, 2023, as part of Aquifer’s Clinical Excellence Case Sets
  • Designed to equip learners with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to provide patient-centered care to their communities regardless of their future specialty
  • New Aquifer course structure begins with a principles module, defining key principles, their value, and potential harm to patients if they are not understood
  • Application cases are short (15 minutes), realistic clinical scenarios with opportunities to explore constructive communication strategies, answer an interactive question about a key clinical decision in the case, consider impacts on care, and engage in reflective practice
  • Created for educators, by educators, and supported by the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations
  • Self-assessment questions emphasize key content and enable students to test their knowledge and skills
  • Proven pedagogy that standardizes experiences—overcoming geography, seasonality, and accessibility
  • Evidence-based, peer-reviewed, and continuously updated content
  • A wealth of source material—including embedded assessment questions and full references—in each case
  • Delivered via the Aqueduct teaching and learning platform, which includes user management tools, easy reporting on student progress and course usage, plus tools for creating custom courses to match a specific curriculum

Aquifer Excellence in Palliative Care debuts a new, streamlined course and case structure, delivering shorter, focused cases. Cases take approximately 15 minutes to complete.

The course begins with one principles module, which covers key definitions, epidemiology, explanation of key principles, and why they are important for patient care, and a harm statement that makes it explicit what harm can come to the patient if the principle is not incorporated into practice.

After completing the principles module, students unlock additional application cases that explore realistic case scenarios, similar to other Aquifer cases. Application cases are concise and focus on one area of a patient encounter, and are centered around a key clinical decision question. Content models evidence-based best practices and communication strategies, and explores the real-world impacts on care and potential harm. At the end of the case, a reflection question asks the students to consider key takeaways, implications for their future practice, or personal wellness. Each application case also includes self-assessment questions that extend the learning to other scenarios.

Aquifer Excellence in Palliative Care is designed for any level student in a health professions program. Cases can be used to introduce principles and applications for pre-clinical students, reinforce concepts during relevant clerkships and electives, and support palliative care and hospice rotations.

Prior to the development of the course, a needs assessment was conducted. Students reported a strong desire for longitudinal education in palliative care to help their skills and understanding evolve.

Programs with a current Aquifer subscription will also have faculty and administrator access to an accompanying Educator Guide. Subscribers will also be able to view student progress reporting and combine the new cases with other Aquifer content in a custom course.

Based on a comprehensive needs assessment, the Aquifer Palliative Care Leadership Team determined the Principles of Primary Palliative Care Excellence to elevate the primary palliative care education and training of all US health professions students, regardless of discipline. Each principle supports the advancement of primary palliative care as a competency for all healthcare professionals.

  1. Alignment of care with the goals, values, and preferences of seriously ill patients based on assessed need.
  2. Interprofessional collaboration and care coordination between patients, families, healthcare teams, and systems.
  3. Evidence-based and holistic care that addresses the physical, psychological, social, and spiritual domains across the illness trajectory from diagnosis to end-of-life.
  4. Equitable access to high-quality, culturally sensitive palliative care services for all patient populations.
  5. Education and advocacy to promote palliative care as a gold standard for serious illness care.

The Aquifer Excellence in Palliative Care cases are designed to teach and apply these principles using clinical scenarios.

After the grant award in 2020 from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations, Aquifer established a Palliative Care Leadership team, a group of interprofessional clinician-educators and content experts representing schools around the US.

In the absence of clear national curricular standards on palliative care in medical and health professions education, the Leadership Team then completed a needs assessment (stakeholder surveys and focus groups) and literature review. After completing the research activities, the leadership team held a consensus conference, synthesizing the literature review and needs assessment findings into a vision statement and key guiding principles.

Using the vision and principles as a framework, the Leadership Team developed a national palliative care curriculum, to be delivered through the Aquifer course. Learning objectives were identified, and development work on virtual patient cases began in late 2021. Case development is nearing completion using varied pedagogies to ensure that learners are equipped with the knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed to provide patient-centered care to their communities.

Available to Aquifer Curricular Partners:

  • 01: Principles of palliative care
  • 02: Palliative care assessment
  • 03: Family meetings & establishing goals of care
  • 04: Advance care planning
  • 05: Interprofessional roles & responsibilities
  • 06: Pharmacologic pain management
  • 07: Supporting patients & families in the grieving process
  • 08: Anxiety and depression in the context of palliative care
  • 09: Understanding Disparities in Care for Patients with Serious Illness
  • 10: Non-opioid pain management
  • 11: Symptom management (non-pain)
  • 12: Pediatric palliative care
  • 13: Signs and symptoms of dying

Accessing the Cases

Aquifer Excellence in Palliative Care is currently available for Curricular Partners (programs subscribing to all five of Aquifer’s signature courses). Individual subscriptions will be available in early 2023. Note: Individual subscriptions include student access only – administrative reporting, content library, custom courses, and user management tools are not included with this access.

Active Learning Modules

These new active learning sessions that accompany the Excellence in Palliative Care course are designed to challenge students to apply what they have learned by studying the Aquifer cases in a real-world scenario. Active learning sessions can be integrated into several clerkships, including, Surgery, Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, or an elective in palliative care. These active learning sessions could be completed with inpatients or outpatients.

Learn More

Introduction Video
On-Demand Webinar

Best Practices & New Tools for Teaching What Every Student Needs to Know About Palliative Care


Listen to the Aquifer Educator Connection Podcast with April Zehm, MD, as she describes the Aquifer Palliative Care Leadership team’s creation of a national standardized curriculum and soon-to-be-available online palliative care course focused on preparing students to provide high-quality patient-centered care. She also discusses how faculty can integrate course resources into their pre-clinical and clinical teaching.