Palliative Medicine

Palliative Medicine residents and Dr. Christopher Barnes (Program Director) at the Élisabeth-Bruyère Hospital

Palliative Medicine residents and Dr. Christopher Barnes (Program Director, centre) at the Élisabeth-Bruyère Hospital

VIDEO: Postgraduate Medical Education at the University of Ottawa

Palliative Medicine

This program prepares residents for rewarding careers in the practice of palliative medicine. Our faculty and inter-professional teams leverage our excellent curriculum and resources to offer you the best possible training.

"The program here is fantastic, and I am confident that I am developing the competencies I need to become an effective palliative care specialist. Among the many assets of the program is the strong emphasis on mentorship."

Dr. Leah O'Shea, Palliative Medicine Resident

"The best part about completing the Palliative Care PGY3 year in Ottawa is that there is a larger group of residents compared to most other programs. Having a peer group for studying, social activities, and support in general makes a big difference!"

Dr. Grace Warmels and Dr. Adrianna Bruni, Palliative Medicine Graduates

Palliative Medicine graduates and Dr. Christopher Barnes

Program graduates with Dr. Barnes

Goals and Objectives

  • To train family physicians who will provide primary and consultant palliative care services to have added competency in palliative medicine; and,
  • To provide clinical and basic academic training for physicians who may go on to academic careers in palliative medicine.

Successful residents will acquire a broad-based understanding of the principles, philosophy, and core knowledge, skills and attitudes of palliative medicine.

Program Structure

The year is divided into 13 blocks, each of which is 4 weeks in length. You will attend your blocks at different sites across Ottawa.

Élisabeth Bruyère Hospital – Palliative Care Unit (4 blocks)

Your blocks at the Palliative Care Unit (PCU) will be divided into two separate rotations. To enhance learning, increase responsibility and evaluate your progress, the first rotation of two blocks (PCU-1) takes place at the beginning of the training year. The second (PCU-2) occurs near the end of the year. During the PCU-2 rotation, you will act as a preceptor for other learners on the PCU, in a junior staff role.

The palliative care unit (PCU) consists of 31 in-patient beds. Inter-professional teams are dedicated to each wing of the unit. Persons with advanced incurable illnesses are admitted to the unit for symptom management and/or end of life care.

You will work as a member of the inter-professional team providing care to patients and their families. You will be responsible for the daily care of patients, including team rounds and family meetings.

The Ottawa Hospital (3 blocks)

You will spend these blocks with the Supportive and Palliative Care Consultation Service under the supervision of a Palliative Medicine Consultant. Two of these blocks will take place at the General Campus, and one at the Civic Campus. The Service is an inter-professional team of health care professionals who provide in-patient and outpatient ambulatory consultation services. These services include symptom control and psychosocial support.

The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre is located at the General Campus. It is a designated centre of integrated oncology and palliative care, recognized by the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO). You will have the opportunity to provide care to patients with non-oncological diseases at the Civic Campus. It is also where The Ottawa Heart Institute is located. 

The Regional Palliative Consultation Team (RPCT) (1 block)
Palliative Medicine residents and Dr. Christopher Barnes (Program Director)

The RPCT supports, educates and assists primary care professionals in the community to provide high quality palliative care to patients. Services include 24/7 telephone consultation, educational sessions, information on community palliative care resources and community-based consultation visits (in homes, long-term care facilities, community hospices and other residential facilities) when they are unable to access ambulatory palliative care services in the Ottawa area.

Working under the supervision of a Palliative Medicine Consultant and the Advanced Nurse Practitioner Service Coordinator, you will provide telephone and home consultation. You may also provide education to off-service residents, and assist with the care of the Family Medicine residents’ patients in the community, particularly those in community-based hospices.

Primary Community Palliative Care (1 block)

Our trainees spend one block with physicians in the Ottawa community that provide primary (most responsible physician) palliative care.  The experience consists of visits to patients’ homes and hospices.  Trainees initially observe the staff physicians to appreciate the workflow of the community role, and then transition to performing visits independently, with indirect supervision.

Pain Service (1 block)

The Ottawa Hospital Chronic Pain Service holds regular outpatient clinics for patients with chronic pain and complex cancer pain. The team works closely with the Supportive & Palliative Care Service to provide interventional pain control for patients with incurable illness who have not been able to achieve adequate relief with other treatment modalities. Treatments may include neurolytic blocks, as well epidural and intrathecal infusions.

You will be supervised by the Department of Anesthesia faculty working in the Chronic Pain Service. You will assist in the assessment of referred patients, as well as observe and assist with procedures. Your main focus will be palliative care patients referred to the service.

Oncology (1 block)

Palliative medicine residents without prior training in oncology spend a minimum of one block in a combined medical/radiation oncology rotation. The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre addresses the oncology needs of patients in eastern Ontario. Under the supervision of attending medical and radiation oncologists, you will participate in the care of patients attending medical and radiation oncology ambulatory clinics at the Cancer Centre. Learning objectives focus on the most common malignancies seen in palliative care.

Electives (2 blocks)

You will have two blocks in which you can choose an elective that is related to Palliative Medicine and your career goals. The Pain rotation may be substituted for a third elective. Both clinical and academic/research electives are available. The Program Director will help you select your electives to achieve your learning goals.

Longitudinal Clinics
A palliative medicine resident at the Élisabeth-Bruyère Hospital

You will attend a Palliative Care Clinic at Cancer Centre once every three weeks over the course of the program. You will work closely with a Palliative Medicine Consultant to provide longitudinal follow up of ambulatory palliative care patients.

You will gain experience in following patients as their symptom burden and psychosocial needs change over the illness trajectory. Similar to the RPCT rotation, these clinics offer you skills to manage the unique aspects of community and ambulatory palliative care. The clinics will allow you to gradually increase your independence as you work with a consistent supervisor over the course of the program.

Scholarly Project

Along with clinical experience, you will carry out a scholarly project under the supervision of a Division of Palliative Medicine faculty member. One half-day per week is set aside for you to work on your project or other academic pursuits.

You will attend formal teaching sessions, including:

  • Weekly Academic Half-Day Seminars
  • National Academic Half-Day Seminars
  • Palliative Care Research Seminar Series
  • Monthly Journal Clubs
  • Monthly Palliative Care Regional Academic Rounds

You will also be assigned a mentor from the Division of Palliative Care, and will be invited to participate in the program’s social activities that encourage wellness.


The program is accredited by the College of Family Physicians of Canada. You must have completed a residency in family medicine and hold (or be eligible for) an educational or independent practice license in Ontario in order to apply to the program.

How to Apply

Please visit the PGY3 Enhanced Skills Applicants page.

Resident and Graduate Testimonials

I highly recommend the PGY3 Enhanced Skills Program in Palliative Medicine at the University of Ottawa! The program here is fantastic, and I am confident that I am developing the competencies I need to become an effective palliative care specialist. Among the many assets of the program is the strong emphasis on mentorship. Each resident is paired with a staff who is available to discuss any concerns, offer support and provide career advice. This one-on-one guidance has been invaluable.

In addition, the city of Ottawa is a great place to work and live! Ottawa has all the amenities of an urban city and it is rich in history, diversity, and culture. With the added bonus of close proximity to many beautiful outdoor spaces that can be enjoyed in all four seasons, Ottawa is an ideal city for those with an active lifestyle. I am not from Ottawa originally but now call this city home and am very happy with my decision to begin my career here!

Dr. Leah O’Shea, Resident

We are both graduates of the Ottawa Palliative Care PGY3 Program. Each rotation offers formal and informal teaching from supervisors who are passionate and engaging. The program prioritizes bedside teaching and inter-professional case discussions, while ensuring that learners also have access to the 'basics' like LEAP modules. The outpatient and community palliative care blocks are really strong, and there is even an option to maintain family medicine skills by continuing with half-day FM clinics. The best part about completing the Palliative Care PGY3 year in Ottawa is that there is a larger group of residents compared to most other programs. Having a peer group for studying, social activities, and support in general makes a big difference!

Dr. Grace Warmels and Dr. Adrianna Bruni, Graduates

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