DNP in Palliative Care

The Post-master’s Doctor of Nursing Practice in Palliative Care degree offers the working nurse an opportunity to demonstrate expertise and gain a deeper understanding of the physical, psychological, spiritual and social needs of patients and families affected by serious illness. To best meet the needs of the working nurse our courses are delivered through an accessible, asynchronous online format.

Palliative Care Education at MUSC

Palliative care is an approach that improves the quality of life of patients and their families facing the problem associated with life-threatening illness, through the prevention and relief of suffering by means of early identification and impeccable assessment and treatment of pain and other problems, physical, psychosocial and spiritual (WHO, 2020).

As a leader in palliative care education, the MUSC College of Nursing has been recognized for its holistic approach to emphasizing the value in palliative care, and since 2017, has expanded its palliative care education to include undergraduate and graduate students as well as faculty. Students are now graduating with End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) training to better prepare them to care for individuals with serious illness and their families.

The college also launched the first in the nation, Post-Masters to Doctor of Nursing Practice, Lifespan in Palliative Care in 2020. These efforts support the national mandates and trends that strongly recommend that palliative care education be incorporated into all undergraduate and graduate nursing programs, a critical need brought to the forefront during the current COVID pandemic.


The curriculum is designed to be completed in five semesters and will prepare the graduate to use analytical methods to improve quality and safety in healthcare systems through organizational leadership, systems thinking and practice management in palliative care. This program focuses on the care of individuals with life-threatening, progressive illness, emphasizing respect for patients’ and families’ beliefs, values, and choices. Additionally, students will identify a problem in palliative care and address it with evidence-based practice and quality improvement principles. DNP students will design, implement and evaluate evidence-based disease management care and coordinate the management of chronic illness for individuals, their families and populations from time of diagnosis through the trajectory of a disease or illness through end of life and bereavement.

Advanced practice registered nurses with a DNP in palliative care will fill an important gap in access to evidence-based, high quality care for individuals with serious illness and their families. The specialized training in palliative care in addition to an added emphasis on disease prevention and health management will ensure our graduates are fully prepared be leaders in palliative care.

MUSC Post-Master’s DNP in Palliative Care prepares students to:

  • Become a leader among advanced practice nurses.
  • Meet all requirements to sit for the Advanced Certified Hospice and Palliative Nurse (ACHPN) exam including both didactic and clinical hours.
  • Demonstrate expertise in advanced nursing practice roles based on mastery of a specialized area of knowledge relative to palliative care that is derived from a strong scientific foundation.
  • Evaluate local community and national palliative and hospice care resources for their relevance as an adjunct to care in the management of chronic and advanced pediatric illnesses.
  • Integrate professional, legal, moral, and ethical standards into practice and care of patients on a palliative care trajectory

Post-Masters DNP Palliative Care Plan of Study

Meet Your Lead Faculty, Dr. Carrie Cormack

cormack headshotDr. Carrie Cormack is the lead Palliative Care Faculty and Assistant Professor in the Doctor of Nursing Practice Program at the College of Nursing. Dr. Cormack earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, and her Master of Science in Nursing degree and Doctor of Nursing Practice Degree from MUSC.

Dr. Cormack moved to South Carolina as a new graduate Registered Nurse to follow her dreams of working in Pediatric Nursing. Now, with over 20 years’ experience in Pediatric Nursing, she has worked in acute care, Developmental Pediatrics, Pediatric Orthopaedics, as the Director of Nursing at a school for children with severe and multiple disabilities, and with a community based palliative care organization. She continues to specialize in palliative care and, in addition to her faculty work, she is now working with the MUSC pediatric palliative care team in perinatal palliative care.

Dr. Cormack is certified by the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board and the Hospice and Palliative Credentialing Center. She is dedicated to increasing palliative care education in nursing programs and is an emerging leader in palliative care graduate nursing education. She serves as faculty for the End-of-Life Nursing Education Consortium (ELNEC) and Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association (HPNA) and educates others in end-of-life care both nationally and internationally. She has been instrumental in the integration of Palliative Care into the programs at the College of Nursing and lead the development and implementation of the new Post-MSN to DNP in Lifespan Palliative Care track. Dr. Cormack is committed to ensuring that nurse graduates at all levels are prepared to deliver quality palliative care for individuals with serious illness and their families.

“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou'

Post MSN to DNP Plan of Study

Year 1   Fall
NRDNP 860 Applied Epidemiology and Biostatistics in Health Care 4 sh (4,0,0)
NRDNP 873 Scientific Underpinnings for Practice IV 3 sh (3,0,0)
NRDNP 850  Organizational Theory and Health Care Systems 3 sh (3,0,0)
Year 1   Spring
NRDNP 846  Frameworks for Leadership & Interprofessional Collaboration  3 sh (3,0,0)
NRDNP 858 Evidence-Based Practice, Quality and Safety  3 sh (3,0,0)
NRDNP 874 Palliative Care Management I 
3 sh (0,3,0)
Year 1   Summer
NRDNP 830 Applied Health Care Economics and Finance  3 sh (3,0,0)
NRDNP 875 Palliative Care II  3 sh (0,3,0)
NRDNP 862 Practice Inquiry and IRB  3 sh (3,0,0)
Year 2   Fall
NRDNP 836 Informatics in Health Care Delivery  3 sh (3,0,0)
NRDNP 890 Residency 5 sh (1,0,4)
Year 2   Spring
NRDNP 890 Residency
5 sh (1,0,4)
NRPHD 708 Advanced Health Policy and Advocacy 3 sh
    Minimum DNP course work  44 sh (30,6,8)

sh=semester hour. Semester hour to clock hour ratio: Didactic, 1:1; seminar, 1:2; practicum, 1:3.

3(3, 0, 0) = (3 sh didactic, 0 sh seminar, 0 sh practicum) = 3 sh total

Graduate students can elect to add Nurse Educator courses to include NURSM 615, NURSM 703, NURSM 713 and NRPHD 800. Additional palliative care clinical hours may also be added dependent on individual student goals/needs with the course NRDNP 876.