Comskil: Communication Skills Training Program & Research Laboratory

Comskil Director, Patricia A. Parker teaching a class
VIDEO | 06:56
An introduction to the Communication Skills Training Program and Research Laboratory
Video Details

Since 2005, Memorial Sloan Kettering’s innovative Communication Skills Training Program and Research Laboratory (Comskil) has been teaching surgeons, oncologists, nurses, and others at MSK and other institutions how to communicate with people who have cancer and their families in a productive and sensitive manner. As the nation’s first formally structured communications initiative at a comprehensive cancer center, the program aims to find the most effective and lasting approaches for guiding clinicians at all career stages in serving people with cancer. Each year, more than 100 people participate in a Comskil training.

This unique program has a dedicated staff of teachers and facilitators. The laboratory includes a classroom and six state-of-the-art video-recording training rooms. While the curriculum was developed for providing cancer care, it can be readily adapted for professionals in hospice settings and for those treating people with HIV/AIDS as well as other chronic or life-threatening diseases.

Among the areas of instruction covered are:

  • sharing serious news
  • discussing prognoses and treatment options
  • responding to patient and caregiver anger
  • identifying and addressing palliative needs
  • handling issues related to end-of-life care, death, and dying
  • handling challenging interactions with families
  • responding empathically to patients’ concerns
  • maintaining team communication

The Comskil program is primarily offered to nurses, faculty, and medical trainees at MSK. However, courses that are open to clinicians from outside MSK are held about once a year. If you are interested in learning more, please contact the Comskil program at or 646-888-0001.

Faculty Members
Patricia A. Parker, PhD
Patricia A. Parker

Director, Communication Skills Training and Research Program

Smita Banerjee
Smita C. Banerjee

Behavioral Scientist

Memorial Sloan Kettering Psychiatrist Philip A. Bialer
Philip A. Bialer
Affiliated Faculty
William S. Breitbart, MD
William S. Breitbart

Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences; Chief, Psychiatry Service; Jimmie C. Holland Chair

Matthew N. Doolittle
Matthew N. Doolittle
Jeffrey B. Freedman, MD
Jeffrey B. Freedman
Memorial Sloan Kettering psychiatrist Julia Kearney
Julia A. Kearney
William E. Rosa
William E. Rosa

Postdoctoral Research Fellow

Richard Weiner
Richard Weiner
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center psychologist Talia I. Zaider
Talia I. Zaider

Foundational Publications

Kissane DW, Bylund CL, Banerjee SC, Bialer PA, Levin TT, Maloney EK, D’Agostino TA. Communication skills training for oncology professionals. J Clin Oncol 2012 Apr 10;30(11):1242-7.

Bylund Cl, Brown RF, Bialer PA, Levin TT, Lubrano di Ciccone B, Kissane DW. Developing and implementing an advanced communication training program in oncology at a comprehensive cancer center. J Cancer Educ 2011 Dec;26(4):604-11.

Brown RF, Bylund CL. Communication skills training: Describing a new conceptual model. Acad Med 2008 Jan;83(1):37-44.

Publications 2017-Present

Banerjee, S. C., Staley, J. M., Howell, F., Malling, C., Moreno, A., Kotsen, C., Parikh, D., & Parker, P. A. (2021). Communicating effectively via tele-oncology (Comskil TeleOnc): A guide for best practices for communication skills in virtual cancer care. Journal of Cancer Education : The Official Journal of the American Association for Cancer Education, 1–6. Advance online publication.

Cannity, K. M., Banerjee, S. C., Hichenberg, S., Leon-Nastasi, A. D., Howell, F., Coyle, N., Zaider, T., & Parker, P. A. (2021). Acceptability and efficacy of a communication skills training for nursing students: Building empathy and discussing complex situations. Nurse Education in Practice, 50, 102928.

Banerjee, S. C., Haque, N., Bylund, C. L., Shen, M. J., Rigney, M., Hamann, H. A., Parker, P. A., & Ostroff, J. S. (2021). Responding empathically to patients: A communication skills training module to reduce lung cancer stigma. Translational Behavioral Medicine, 11(2), 613–618.

Shen, M. J., Manna, R., Banerjee, S. C., Nelson, C. J., Alexander, K., Alici, Y., Gangai, N., Parker, P. A., & Korc-Grodzicki, B. (2020). Incorporating shared decision making into communication with older adults with cancer and their caregivers: Development and evaluation of a geriatric shared decision-making communication skills training module. Patient Education and Counseling, 103(11), 2328–2334.

Korc-Grodzicki, B., Alici, Y., Nelson, C., Alexander, K., Manna, R., Gangai, N., Shen, M. J., Parker, P. A., & Banerjee, S. C. (2020). Addressing the quality of communication with older cancer patients with cognitive deficits: Development of a communication skills training module. Palliative & Supportive Care, 18(4), 419–424.

Banerjee, S. C., Haque, N., Schofield, E. A., Williamson, T. J., Martin, C. M., Bylund, C. L., Shen, M. J., Rigney, M., Hamann, H. A., Parker, P. A., McFarland, D. C., Park, B. J., Molena, D., Moreno, A., & Ostroff, J. S. (2020). Oncology care provider training in empathic communication skills to reduce lung cancer stigma. Chest, S0012-3692(20)35308-3. Advance online publication.

Bylund CL, Banerjee SC, Bialer PA, Manna R, Levin TL, Parker PA, Schofield E, Li Y, Bartell A, Chou A, Hichenberg S, Dickler M, Kissane DW. A rigorous evaluation of an institutionally-based communication skills program for post-graduate oncology nurses. Patient Educ Couns 2018 Jun 1. pii: S0738-3991(18)30274-X.

Publications prior to 2017

Banerjee SC, Manna R, Coyle N, Penn S, Gallegos TE, Zaider T, Krueger CA, Bialer PA, Bylund CL, Parker PA. The implementation and evaluation of a communication skills training program for oncology nurses 2017. Transl Behav Med 2017 Sep;7(3):615-623.

Banerjee SC, Manna R, Coyle N, Johnson Shen M, Pehrson C, Zaider T, Hammonds S, Krueger CA, Parker PA, Bylund CL. Oncology nurses’ communication challenges with patients and families: A qualitative study. Nurse Educ Pract 2016 Jan;16(1):193-201.

Pehrson C, Banerjee SC, Manna R, Johnson Shen M, Hammonds S, Coyle N, Krueger CA, Maloney E, Zaider T, Bylund CL. Responding empathically to patients: Development, implementation, and evaluation of a communication skills training module for oncology nurses. Patient Educ Couns 2016 Apr;99(4):610-616.

Zaider TI, Banerjee SC, Manna R, Coyle R, Pehrson C, Hammonds S, Krueger CA, Bylund CL. Responding to Challenging interactions with families: A training module for inpatient oncology nurses. Fam Syst Health 2016 Sep;34(3):204-12.

Coyle N, Manna R, Shen M, Banerjee SS, Penn S, Pehrson C, Krueger CA, Maloney EK, Zaider T, Bylund CL. Discussing death dying and end-of-life goals of care: A communication skills training module for oncology nurses. Clin J Oncol Nurs 2015 Dec;19(6):697-7