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Life Care Planning Schools: How to Choose

In a life care planning program, students learn to assist patients with debilitating, permanent or terminal illnesses. Certificates in the field are available, but students usually must have previously completed a bachelor's degree in nursing or a related field.

Life care programs are available at colleges and universities that offer other healthcare instruction. Most programs are open to individuals who have completed a bachelor's degree program in a medical-related field, but a few require prospective students to hold a master's degree and have at least two years of experience working in the healthcare field.

Schools with Life Care Planning Programs

Here are a few schools which offer certificate programs in life care planning.

University/College Location Institution Type Degrees Offered Tuition and Fees
(2015-16)
Capital University Law School Columbus, OH 4-year, Private Undergraduate Certificate $4,235*
New York University New York, NY 4-year, Private Postgraduate Certificate $3,200*
University of Central Florida Orlando, FL 4-year, Public Undergraduate Certificate $200*
Portland Community College Portland, OR 2-year, Public Undergraduate Certificate $3,766 in-state, $8,374 out-of-state**
Smith College Northampton, MA 4-year, Private Graduate Certificate N/A

*Source: *School websites, **NCES College Navigator.

School Selection Criteria

Students interested in life care planning schools should take into consideration the following information:

  • Some programs prepare students for the Certified Health Care Planner (CHCP) exam. Certification isn't always required, but it can improve job prospects.
  • The length of the program varies by school, with some requiring up to three years.
  • Students should look into each program's curriculum, since some programs focus on traditional topics such as medical ethics, grieving and pain management, while others focus on legal considerations for end-of-life care.
  • Students who have full-time jobs or family responsibilities may look for online programs.

Life Care Planning Certificate

Certificate programs in life care planning typically instruct nurses, physicians and other health service providers in topics related to the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of illness and death. Some programs also provide courses in contract interpretation, damage awards, structured settlements and medical records analysis. Program lengths vary from 6 courses to more than a hundred credit hours, and many programs contain internship requirements. Specific course topics include pain assessment and management, attachment and loss, case management duties, physiological changes during the dying process, and spirituality.

Postgraduate Degree Life Care Planning Certificate

Postgraduate life care planning certificate programs are designed for individuals holding a master's degree or higher in a health science field. These programs are intended to provide students with advanced training in end-of-life care. Typically consisting of 33 course credit hours, these programs provide instruction in research methodologies, leadership, and support for various cultural or age groups.

Most life care planning programs are offered as undergraduate certificates. However, a few are available only to students who have already completed postsecondary degrees.


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