Learners: Dr. Pfeifer gives an overview of iCOPE in this video. View this video before beginning the iCOPE curriculum.

Please disregard Dr. Pfeifer’s reference in the video introduction to pre and post evaluations as this was done in the research phase of iCOPE.

Interdisciplinary Curriculum for Oncology Palliative Education

Pfeifer press confWhat is iCOPE?

The Interdisciplinary Curriculum for Oncology Palliative Education was developed from a project to create and evaluate an interdisciplinary curriculum for medical, nursing, social work and chaplaincy students. The project was funded by the National Cancer Institute from September 1, 2010-August 31, 2015. It is novel in that students of the various disciplines complete a curriculum designed specifically for inter-professional learning about the core principles of palliative care and teamwork.

During the first phase of the project, faculty members from each of the involved schools (medicine, nursing, social work, and clinical pastoral education) designed a comprehensive, innovative educational plan using various teaching modalities and focusing on the interdisciplinary practice of palliative care.

In the second phase, the curriculum was tested and evaluated. Students from the four schools complete the required components while evaluation data is collected. Both process and outcome variables were evaluated and the curriculum was improved based on the findings. After five years and over 900 student participants, the curriculum has been incorporated into the mandated curriculum for all students in nursing and medicine, social work students in a related field and chaplaincy residents.


iCOPE is a curricular component for students of medicine, nursing, social work and pastoral care education. The two overall goals of iCOPE are (1) to involve students in interdisciplinary learning activities which will prepare them to work together as professionals on interdisciplinary teams; and (2) to teach students of the health care professions the principles and practice of interdisciplinary palliative care.


Specific learning objectives for all students during their iCOPE experience are comprehensive and will be accomplished through various learning activities and experiences. By the end of the curriculum the student will be able to:

  • Initiate an interdisciplinary collaboration in the care of the patient
  • Distinguish the roles and contributions of members of an IDT in the care of a patient
  • Demonstrate the ability to work effectively in an interdisciplinary team
  • Compare and contrast the range and value of various venues for palliative care
  • Value the roles and contributions of members of an IDT
  • Assess the physical symptoms affecting the patient
  • Formulate a discipline specific intervention addressing physical symptoms
  • Construct an interdisciplinary plan of care for addressing physical symptoms
  • Assess the psycho-social-spiritual and cultural needs and resources of the patient and family
  • Formulate discipline specific interventions addressing psycho-social-spiritual and cultural needs of the patients and family
  • Construct an interdisciplinary plan of care for addressing psycho-social-spiritual and cultural needs of the patients and family
  • Apply ethical and legal principles to the practice of palliative care
  • Recognize how one’s own values, beliefs and feelings influence practice
  • Demonstrate effective communication skills in interactions with patients/families/colleagues

What are the components of the curriculum?

  1. Didactic Modules:
    Students will complete four online modules designed to teach them the core concepts of palliative care. Topics to be covered include: roles of the interdisciplinary team members, palliative care structure and processes, pain and symptom management, communication, grief and loss, spiritual dimensions of care, social and cultural care, and ethics. These modules were created in an interactive software program (Softchalk©) which links to videos, websites and activities. These modules should be completed BEFORE palliative care clinical rotations, ICME or Critical Reflection sessions.

The Interdisciplinary Palliative Care Team

Start Module


The Case of Phil Woods

Start Module


The Case of Julio Granda

Start Module


The Case of Mina Saleem

Start Module



  1. Interdisciplinary Case Management Experience (ICME):
    Students from all four disciplines will meet together to consider a case, develop an interdisciplinary care plan, share documentation, and resolve a simulated case scenario. ICME is scheduled on the same day as the Critical Reflection session (see below). The only preparation for this iCOPE component is a review of The Interdisciplinary Palliative Care Team and The Case of Phil Woods modules. These two modules will provide information about the team meeting and the plan of care. Your instructor will schedule ICME for you.

  1. Clinical Rotation and Critical Reflection Paper:
    There are 3 parts to this component:

3a. Clinical Rotation:
Students will have a clinical experience at a site where specialty-level palliative care is practiced. The clinical experience will be scheduled by your instructor.

3b. Critical Reflection Paper: Students will critically reflect on a case observed at that site. The exercise focuses on the interdisciplinary nature of palliative care. Template and guidelines are attached: Critical Reflection Directions and Template (PDF)

3c. Critical Reflection Session: The Critical Reflection Session is usually scheduled by your instructor on the same day as ICME. During the Critical Reflection Session students meet in an interdisciplinary group with a faculty facilitator to share their experiences. This allows students to gain a broader view of palliative care styles and facilities, understand what other disciplines do in palliative care and reflect personally on what was learned. Bring another copy of your paper to this session.

*OPTION for students not completing a clinical rotation: View one of the following videos and then write your critical reflection paper. Vidoes: Wit, Two Weeks, My Life Without ME, 50/50, Letting Go (documentary)