A train-the-trainer communication training course appears to be an effective strategy for broadly teaching communication to oncology nurses, according to a study presented at the 2016 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium.1

Because the communication skills required to navigate between oncology and palliative care are important for oncology nurses working across the cancer continuum, researchers sought to evaluate the viability of an evidence-based communication training course called COMFORT. COMFORT is the first train-the-trainer communication training course for nurses.

For the study, 187 oncology nurses from across the United States participated in 2 courses that covered the continuum of care, including diagnosis, treatment, survivorship, recurrence, and end of life. The curriculum teaches oncology nurses to deliver life-changing news, evaluate the health literacy needs of patients and their families, practice mindful communication, acknowledge family caregivers, and address communication openings and goals.

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After 6 months, course participants reported teaching an additional 2460 health care providers, including 1961 nurses and 264 physicians. The training manual, which was provided during the course, was used by more than three-fourths of course participants and was rated as effective.

Course participants also reported that their institutions were most effective with communication during treatment; however, communication was least effective during survivorship, bereavement, and end of life.

“Train-the-trainer is less costly than traditional on-site training methods and allows instruction to be tailored to address the institution’s least effective communication practices across the cancer continuum,” the study authors note.


1.  Wittenberg E, Ferrell BR, Hanson J, Eggly S. Results from a train-the-trainer communication program for oncology nurses. Poster presented at: 2016 Palliative Care in Oncology Symposium; September 9-10, 2016; San Francisco, CA.