This unit will enable you to understand the aims of this course, how it has been developed and how to use it.


ūüēí¬†Time required: 5 mins


Start by clicking on the audio below ¬†to listen to the¬†introduction or click on the ‘text version’ of the audio if you prefer to read the information¬†

Click here for Text Version of welcome audio

What is the course about? Welcome to this short, free, course on end-of-life care for patients in ‘Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness’. The focus in on patients in vegetative or minimally conscious states.¬†The course explores staff and family views, experiences and support needs when considering discontinuation of clinically-assisted nutrition and hydration and provides an introduction to related palliative care fissues.¬†

Who is it for? This course is designed primarily for staff working in hospices, rehabilitation centres and care homes and can be useful whatever your level of experience.

When is this training useful? We developed this training in response to staff asking for support around decision-making or after decisions had been made about withdrawing feeding tubes from patients. The training is designed to be done at any point and it is important in fact not to wait until after such decisions have been made. Knowledge about different end-of-life care pathways are important to inform decision-making itself. In addition, providing information and support well in advance can be very helpful to the whole multi-disciplinary team and to the families involved.

Course structure: The course has 5 units most of which take about 10 or 20 minutes to complete. There are short film clips and presentations to watch and reflective exercises and quizzes too.

Kit:¬†You can do the course on any computer or mobile phone that connects to the internet. You’ll need to use your in-built speaker or earphones for listening to the film clips. There are simplified transcriptions of the interviews with health care staff and family members – but you’ll get a much more powerful sense of what people are saying if you can hear them speak for themselves.

Continuing Professional Development certificate: At the end of the course you’ll have an opportunity to summarise your learning and give feedback and to download your Continuing Professional Development [CPD] certificate.

Image used in this course:¬†We wanted to avoid stock images of crinkly hands, intensive care machines or ‘sleeping beauties’ that so often illustrate end-of-life care. We were delighted to have the opportunity to collaborate with Tim Sanders (visual artist and cartoonist) and Karin Andrews Jashapara (shadow puppet theatre producer). We hope you’ll enjoy seeing some of their work. ¬†The photographs below show Karin Andrews Jashapara at work creating ‚Äėshadow puppet theatre‚Äô exploring some of the themes unpacked in this course.

Who produced the course? This course has been produced by the ‘Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre’ at Cardiff University. See our website at: www.cdoc.org.uk. Follow us on twitter @cdocuk. The development of the materials was led by Professor Jenny Kitzinger (Cardiff University, JOMEC) working with Professor Celia Kitzinger (School of Law & Politics), Dr Julie Latchem-Hastings (Medical School) and Dr Geraldine Latchem-Hastings (Health Sciences). Between us, we bring together expertise in family experience, communication, law, ethics and clinical practice.

Who contributed?¬† Funding from the ESRC and Cardiff University helped develop these materials and we’re very grateful for the skills and creativity of our website developer, Liz Fahy. We¬†also had lots of input from different healthcare professionals and people with relatives in prolonged disorders of consciousness – it’s been great team work!

Context of this e-learning: This is one of several courses developed by the Coma and Disorders of Consciousness Research Centre. This ‘End-of-Life Care’ course can be done as stand-alone training but if you want to know more you may want to refer to our other courses at CDOCtraining.org.uk:

  • ‘Culture, ‘coma’ and the media: explores how the media represents prolonged disorders of consciousness and the impact on family and public understanding.
  • ‚ÄėIntroduction to¬†Caring for Patients with a Prolonged Disorders of Consciousness‚Äô¬† is a course which introduces ‘disorders of consciousness’ as a clinical condition, discusses diagnosis, reviews core care and treatment practices
  • ‘Communication with families of PDoC Patients’ explores family experiences and family-staff communication skills
  • Law, ethics and best interests’ focuses on decision-making and dilemmas and issues around life-sustaining interventions’
  • ‚ÄėLife-Sustaining Treatment Decisions‚Äô¬† ¬†gives detailed guidance on how to gather information about the patient, the practicalities of running and documenting a best interests meeting, and how to ensure decisions are reached and enacted in a timely and robust way.

You can register your interest in any of these other courses here 

Note: The courses have all been developed in the UK; our explanation of the legal situation is based on the law in England and Wales, but aspects of all course may be useful for healthcare providers in many different parts of the world.

Want to learn in a group?¬†Our courses are designed to be easy for individuals to work through by themselves at their own pace. However, the courses can also be used by multi-disciplinary teams studying in parallel, combining on-line learning with meeting up to discuss materials or¬†reflect on practice. We also run each course once a year with the support of online seminars. If you’re interested in any of our courses being adopted in your workplace we can provide additional help and materials. Contact Professor Jenny Kitzinger at KitzingerJ@Cardiff.ac.uk.

Prefer to work with paper?¬†If you are working with colleagues without¬†computer access, or simply prefer to work with paper copies, then each unit can be printed out. ¬†It works best if you save each unit ¬†in .pdf format – but remember to click on all the ‘Show Text’ options in the unit first to include the transcription of the film clips.

Want to contribute? We are continually evolving our course Рso please do get in touch if you would like to contribute or just want to share an experience or perspective you feel is not represented here.

We hope you find this course valuable and that it helps to improve care for patients, staff and patients’ families.

Now click on the ‚ÄėMark as Completed‚Äô button at the bottom of this page.¬†

Then click on the ‘Next Unit’ button to¬†move on through the course.