Assessment of a Statewide Palliative Care Team Training Course: COMFORT Communication for Palliative Care Teams

Elaine Wittenberg, Betty Ferrell, Joy Goldsmith, Sandra L. Ragan, Judith Paice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Background: Despite increased attention to communication skill training in palliative care, few interprofessional training programs are available and little is known about the impact of such training. Objective: This study evaluated a communication curriculum offered to interprofessional palliative care teams and examined the longitudinal impact of training. Methods: Interprofessional, hospital-based palliative care team members were competitively selected to participate in a two-day training using the COMFORTTM SM (Communication, Orientation and options, Mindful communication, Family, Openings, Relating, Team) Communication for Palliative Care Teams curriculum. Course evaluation and goal assessment were tracked at six and nine months postcourse. Interprofessional palliative care team members (n = 58) representing 29 teams attended the course and completed course goals. Participants included 28 nurses, 16 social workers, 8 physicians, 5 chaplains, and one psychologist. Precourse surveys assessed participants' perceptions of institution-wide communication performance across the continuum of care and resources supporting optimum communication. Postcourse evaluations and goal progress monitoring were used to assess training effectiveness. Results: Participants reported moderate communication effectiveness in their institutions, with the weakest areas being during bereavement and survivorship care. Mean response to course evaluation across all participants was greater than 4 (scale of 1 = low to 5 = high). Participants taught an additional 962 providers and initiated institution-wide training for clinical staff, new hires, and volunteers. Team member training improved communication processes and increased attention to communication with family caregivers. Barriers to goal implementation included a lack of institutional support as evidenced in clinical caseloads and an absence of leadership and funding. Conclusion: The COMFORTTM SM communication curriculum is effective palliative care communication training for interprofessional teams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)746-752
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Palliative Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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