MUSC now accepting applications for first known DNP in palliative care

September 28, 2020
Palliative care nurse offers care and compassion to an elderly woman.

The MUSC College of Nursing introduced the first known Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree with a palliative care concentration in the United States during the summer of 2020. The new online program was created to meet the growing demand for health care providers equipped with the knowledge and skills to effectively manage care for individuals and families living with a serious illness. This unique program focuses on the value of palliative care as a basic human right and the care of individuals with life-threatening progressive illnesses, emphasizing respect for patients’ and families’ beliefs, values and choices.

The post-master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice in Lifespan Palliative Care program meets the needs of advanced practice nurses who want to gain a deeper understanding of the physical, psychological, spiritual, and social needs of patients and their families who live with a serious illness from diagnosis through end of life and bereavement. The curriculum, designed to be completed in five semesters, will prepare the graduate to use analytical methods to improve quality and safety in health care systems through organizational leadership, systems thinking, and practice management in palliative care.

Palliative care is the practice of providing symptom relief from serious and/or life-limiting illness while promoting and improving the quality of life for both the patient and their families. Often confused with hospice or end-of-life care, palliative care is a central part of treatment and support, based upon unique expertise, delivered at any time during the trajectory of a serious or life-limiting illness. The goal is to prevent and ease suffering while improving quality of life.

“We listened to our students and many working nurses who expressed the need for advanced education and training because they feel they are not adequately prepared to lead and direct the treatment of complex health challenges faced by those who need palliative care,” said Dean Linda Weglicki, Ph.D., R.N. “Last year, there were only 219 certified palliative care nurses and 104 physicians board certified in palliative medicine in South Carolina. It is clear that more doctorally prepared nurses are needed to serve our state’s growing aging population, and those who are facing diagnoses associated with serious and life-limiting illnesses.”

Graduates of the DNP in palliative care program will not only learn how to communicate effectively with patients and families, they will also become experts on how to successfully integrate palliative care into standard health care practice while focusing on quality of life or relief of pain and suffering.

Applications are being accepted for the August 2021 cohort. More information can be found at or contact Alexis Cunlife, M.Ed., student recruiter, at