Degrees and courses for international students
You are viewing information for England.  Change country.

Improving end-of-life care

This 40-hour multimedia online course is focused on improving end-of-life care for adults. It covers different understandings of and support for ‘a good death’, effective communication, grief and bereavement and ethics in end-of-life care. Written assuming no prior knowledge, the online learning guides support you in building your understanding of end-of-life care by working step-by-step through audio and video accounts from practice and written case studies, as well as accessible discussions of up-to-date research and theory.

Standalone study only

You will not be awarded credits for studying this course. It is available for standalone study only and cannot be counted towards an OU qualification.

Short course

Short course code
This is a non-credit bearing course.
Study method
Distance Learning
Short course cost
See Registration
Entry requirements
See Entry requirements

Student Reviews

Very interesting and thoughtful course. Even the most experienced Nurses should be encouraged to do this course....
Read more

Download a brochure

Explore our subjects and courses.

Download your copy today

What you will study

This 40-hour multimedia online course is focused on improving the end-of-life care for adults. Key topics are:

  • A ‘good death’: You will learn about the different understandings of what it takes to support a ‘good death’ including caring for those from other cultures. Predicting death and care pathways and frameworks are also explored.
  • Communication for end-of-life care: Principles for effective communication (and reasons for failures in communication) with people who are dying and those around them are considered. You will develop an understanding of a well-established approach to communication through a series of video and audio material from practitioners and people who are dying. Delivering and receiving bad news receives particular attention.
  • Grief and bereavement: By looking at different theories of grief you will gain an understanding of the diverse ways in which it is experienced. Differences between people will be explored. You will take a critical look at how people who are grieving are supported.
  • Doing the right thing - ethics in end-of-life care: You will develop an applied understanding of core ethical principles and processes in end-of-life care. Issues particular to end-of-life care will be discussed in relation to difficult situations in end-of-life care - decision making, truth telling, informed consent, mental capacity and advance plans including ‘do not attempt resuscitation’ orders.

The course aims to help practitioners understand the principles and issues behind practice in order to reflect upon the ‘messy reality’ of end-of-life care. The course is aimed at a diverse, multi-professional audience comprising of both ‘support worker’ level practitioners (such as health care assistants or care workers), registered practitioners, carers and those with a general interest in the topic. Recognising the diverse roles and settings of students, the course will guide you through a process of reflection and action planning in relation to your particular context.

You will learn by working through online learning guides. Assuming no prior knowledge, you are supported to build your understanding of end-of-life care by working step-by-step through online activities, real accounts from practitioners, carers and people who are dying. The study of audio-visual material and written case studies from practice are a central feature of the course. You will also be directed to relevant web resources to develop an understanding of relevant procedures or services.

A Learning Advisor will also be available to you via a forum on the website, to answer questions and provide advice on the course learning resources and help you apply your learning to your workplace.

By the end of this course you should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the personal, institutional and societal factors shaping the experience of the end of life for both service users and those around them.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the character of, and the nature of support for ‘a good death’.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the nature of effective communication with those who are dying.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of the experience of bereavement and support for those experiencing grief.
  • Demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of ethical issues at the end of life.
  • Integrate different experiences of death, dying and bereavement and the associated caring practices with theoretical knowledge.
  • Take responsibility for your own learning and/or continuing professional development.
  • Critically reflect on and develop practice in order to promote the interests of dying and bereaved people including knowledge of care pathways and advanced care planning.
  • Respond ethically to the needs of dying and bereaved people including those relating to a ‘good death’ and grief.
  • Recognise and apply effective strategies for communicating with people affected by death, dying and bereavement.

This course will require around 40 hours of your time in total. The strong link between course learning and your work practice creates relevant, enduring and transferable outcomes – and the learning is far richer than more expensive one- to three-day workshops. Register online today and start tomorrow – no need to wait!

The course features the distinctive strengths of The Open University (OU) from its years of expertise in supporting learning. You'll benefit from:

  • the convenience of accessing its clearly presented and sequenced materials and activities whenever suits you and wherever you have access to the protected course website – if you prefer, you can print key materials to work on them offline.
  • receiving a Statement of Participation that you can use this to demonstrate your continuing professional development (CPD) activity to your employer and/or professional body. (N.B. The course does not carry academic credits.)

Some of the pages within the course contain links to external sites. Accessing these sites is part of the allocated study time for the course. How much time you spend on them, however, is likely to depend on how relevant the topics are to your current role. You may also wish to undertake additional background study or reading if some of the concepts introduced are completely unfamiliar to you.

Vocational relevance

The course focuses on person-centred practice and is highly relevant to staff working at all levels in health and social care (registered staff and non-registered support staff), those directly involved in frontline care and those who need to understand the sensitivities and demands of end-of-life care and the importance of communication in this challenging area of work. Participants will establish a strong link between what they learn and their work practice.

The way the course is delivered means it is accessible to people working in acute, community and domiciliary settings; staff have access to learning at any time that suits them (24/7) and can refer back to case studies, guidance and learning points at any time – even after they have completed study.  This ensures that outcomes from study can be applied in practice long after the course has been completed. We are proud of the way the course creates relevant, enduring and transferable outcomes for health and social care service.

Professional recognition

Completion of the course enables us to recognise your work through an OU statement of participation that you can use to document your commitment to continuing professional development in your personal portfolio, or to provide evidence to employers or professional body.

Outside the UK

This course has been written primarily for a UK context, in that the examples are drawn from the UK.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations, which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

    Entry requirements

    There are no entry requirements. For each course you can register and begin at any time during the life of the course. You can study at your own pace. The course will be open to you for a time period of between 6 and 18 months depending on your course registration date and you will be advised of the specific time limitations upon enrolment.

    If you have any doubt about the suitability of the course, please contact us.


    Start End England fee Register
    At anytime Flexible - see Entry requirements for more detail £185.00 Register

    Ways to pay

    Credit/Debit Card – We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron.

    Sponsorship – If this course is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could ask your employer to sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. Your sponsor just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.

    The fee information provided here is valid for short courses starting in the 2019/20 academic year. Fees for short courses starting in the 2020/21 academic year or later may increase in line with the University’s strategic approach to fees.

    What's included

    All learning materials are delivered entirely online.

    Computing requirements

    A computing device with a browser and broadband internet access is required for this module. Any modern browser will be suitable for most computer activities. Functionality may be limited on mobile devices.

    Any additional software will be provided, or is generally freely available. However, some activities may have more specific requirements. For this reason, you will need to be able to install and run additional software on a device that meets the requirements below.

    A desktop or laptop computer with either:

    • Windows 7 or higher
    • Mac OS X 10.7 or higher

    The screen of the device must have a resolution of at least 1024 pixels horizontally and 768 pixels vertically.

    To join in the spoken conversation in our online rooms we recommend a headset (headphones or earphones with an integrated microphone).

    Our Skills for OU study website has further information including computing skills for study, computer security, acquiring a computer and Microsoft software offers for students.

    If you have a disability

    The course is delivered online and makes use of a variety of online resources. If you use specialist hardware or software to assist you in using a computer or the internet you are advised to contact us about support which can be given to meet your needs. If you are a new learner with the OU, make sure you look at our website.