COMFORT-IPE: Communication training for Interprofessional Patient-centered Care

Publication ID Published Volume
9298 December 18, 2012 8


COMFORT is an acronym that stands for the basic principles of palliative care communication and comprises seven modules (Communication, Orientation/Opportunity, Mindfulness, Family, Openings, Relating, Team). These communication skills training modules are designed to highlight interprofessional care and communication. Each module of the COMFORT curriculum can stand alone as a teaching activity or can be integrated into a new or existing course. Modules C (narrative clinical communication) and F (family caregivers) provide beginner level instruction, while M (mindfulness), O/O (orientation), and T (team) provide intermediate instruction and O (openings) and R (relating) provide advanced communication skills and are intended for learners who have clinical observation experience.

Our preliminary research on the effectiveness of the COMFORT communication curriculum has included both clinical audiences and student learners. Using Kirkpatrick’s learning evaluation framework for higher education, we have assessed the following:

  • Kirkpatrick (1994) Level 1: Satisfaction
  • Clinical Audience: Social workers, physicians, nurses, chaplains (n=35)
  • Two modules (C-communicate and T-team) were taught to interprofessional healthcare providers attending the American Hospice and Palliative Medicine/Hospice and Palliative Nurse Association’s annual conference (2012). Participants ranked “demonstrated expertise in content area” a 4.63 out of 5.0 and “used teaching methods that facilitated learning” a 4.63 out of 5.0.
  • Clinical Audience: Physicians, Nurses, AP Nurses (n=27)
  • Four modules are available online for clinicians to earn free continuing education credits ( More than 75% of clinicians exposed to COMFORT report that the activity is considered useful to clinical practice and modules are easy to understand and relevant. Knowledge assessment items have been piloted through this project.
  • Kirkpatrick (1994) Level 2: Learning
  • Student learners: Vocational Nursing Students (n=32)
  • Using a post-test survey, vocational nurses showed statistically significant improvement in attitudes about communication training following exposure to COMFORT communication training. Specifically, nursing students had more positive attitudes to communication skills learning (p<.000), perceived importance of communication (p<.009), and increase in reported self-efficacy in using communication skills with patients and families (p<.052). The course evaluation score was 4.77 out of 5.0, indicating that students perceived the COMFORT communication training to have provided knowledge they did not previously possess prior to the course.
  • Graduate Nursing Student Education (n=22)
  • Using a pre-post research design that assessed communication knowledge, a two-hour training session on one module of COMFORT was held for graduate nursing students. Overall, 10 of the 12 students scored 75% or higher on knowledge assessment.
  • Graduate Physical Therapy Education (n=64)
  • A 6 hour workshop on COMFORT for doctoral level physical therapy students, including a reflective writing exercise and a two hour communication skills building lab was conducted. A comparison of mean scores on communication skills attitudes and perceived communication competency revealed positive change in attitudes and self-efficacy as well as some communication behaviors.
  • Medical Students (n=8)
  • Medical students were exposed to the Family Communication module of COMFORT and reported that the curriculum was easy to understand and that they could relate to concepts from their clinical experiences.


Wittenberg-Lyles E, Goldsmith J, Ferrell B, Parker Oliver D, Pfeifle A. COMFORT-IPE: communication training for interprofessional patient-centered care. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2012;8:9298.

Educational Objectives

  1. To describe and begin to practice patient-centered communication and interprofessional collaboration.
  2. To use communication strategies to engage patients in difficult conversations about psychosocial concerns and integrate information into interprofessional care planning.
  3. To share patient/family information in a way that advances interprofessional collaborative care in team meetings.


  • Teamwork, Truth Disclosure, Family Involvement, Interprofessional Education Collaboration (IPEC)

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ISSN 2374-8265