Core Modules

Providing support for people affected by life-limiting illness (including patients and their families / carers) requires an understanding of the meaning of their illness and its effects on all involved. Open conversations about the illness, associated symptoms, goals of care and clinical management can provide considerable relief to people affected by life-limiting illness.[1, 2] During these conversations, health professionals must acknowledge personal concerns and sources of distress and respond to these effectively. Talking about dying and death is a necessary part of this care.[2, 3] These conversations can be difficult for everyone involved.[1] Using communication frameworks can help to reduce the stress associated with these difficult conversations and can assist with providing clear and effective communication.[1, 2]

Module 2: Communicating with people affected by life-limiting illness will help you develop your communication skills with people in this area.

Case Study: Meet Michelle, a 38 year-old who lives with her partner Peter and two children. She has a recurrence of breast cancer with metastatic deposits on her spine, managed with palliative radiation therapy and palliative chemotherapy. As Michelle’s condition deteriorates, palliative care is introduced by the cancer care team, with support from the palliative care nurse to help prepare and support Michelle and Peter for Michelle’s end-of-life care at home.

Case Study: Michelle's Story YouTube Playlist

Aims and Objectives:

After completing this module, you should be able to:

  • Identify sources of psychological, social and spiritual support for people affected by life-limiting illness
  • Recognise how your personal values and beliefs about dying and death affect your responses and interactions with people affected by life-limiting illness
  • Identify resources that can support your communication with a person affected by a life-limiting illness
  • Demonstrate the principles of effective communication when interacting with people affected by life-limiting illness
  • Explore the role of self-care for healthcare professionals who are supporting people affected by life-limiting illness.

For Educators:

Michelle’s Story case scenario information, videos/audio, thinking points and workbook sections have been collated into a Padlet board for use in self-directed or group learning activities.

Access the padlet here.

Record of Participation



  1. Marcus, J.D. and F.E. Mott, Difficult Conversations: From Diagnosis to Death. The Ochsner Journal, 2014. 14(4): p. 712-717.
  2. Therapeutic Guidelines Ltd. Communicating with the patient in palliative care. Palliative Care 2016  [cited 2018 4 July]; eTG July 2017 edition:[Available from:
  3. CareSearch. Communication. 2018  [cited 2018 12/07/2018]; Available from: