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Learning modules

Activity 6: Assessment tools

Guiding clinical assessment

There are many reliable and validated tools available to guide health professionals with symptom assessment.

Assessment tools can be designed to:

  • assess multiple symptoms e.g. the Symptom Assessment Scale (SAS) [1]. These tools are useful in routine practice for screening to identify individuals experiencing symptoms.
  • guide the assessment of an individual symptom e.g. the Brief Pain Inventory [2]. These tools enable a more comprehensive assessment to identify causes and effects of symptoms.
  • identify specific needs in order to provide relevant care/services e.g. The FACIT SP 12 – a spiritual assessment tool [3].

One example of a needs assessment tool is the Needs Assessment Tool: Progressive Disease – Cancer (NAT: PD-C) [4]. This tool was developed in conjunction with The Palliative Care Needs Assessment Guidelines [5] to facilitate needs based care for people with advanced cancer and their families, including palliative care.

The NAT: PD-C was developed to assist health professionals in matching the types and levels of need experienced by people with advanced cancer with the most appropriate people or services to address those needs. It can be used in both generalist and specialist settings.

Thinking points


1. Palliative Care Outcomes Collaboration. (2011). Symptom Assessment Scale. Retrieved August 7 2012, from

2. Cleeland, C.S., & Ryan, K.M. (1994). Pain assessment: global use of the Brief Pain Inventory. Ann Acad Med Singapore, 23(2),129-38.

3. FACIT. (2007). FACIT -Sp-12: Spiritual Well Being. Retrieved September 15, 2010, from

4. Centre for Health Research and Psycho-oncology. (2009). Needs Assessment Tool: Progressive Disease – Cancer (NAT: PD-C). Newcastle, The Centre for Health Research & Psycho-oncology. PDF

5. Girgis, A., Johnson, C., Currow, D., Waller, A., Kristjanson, L., Mitchell, G., Yates, P., Neil, A., Kelly, B., Tattersall, M., & Bowman, D. (2006). Palliative Care Needs Assessment Guidelines. Newcastle, The Centre for Health Research & Psycho-oncology. PDF