Comskil: Communication Skills Training Program & Research Laboratory

Comskil Director, Patricia A. Parker teaching a class
VIDEO | 06:56

Comskil Introduction Video

An introduction to the Communication Skills Training Program and Research Laboratory
Video Details

Since 2005, Memorial Sloan Kettering’s innovative Comskil program has been teaching clinicians, across all disciplines, how to communicate with cancer patients and their families in challenging situations. As the nation’s first formally structured communication initiative at a comprehensive cancer center, the program aims to find the most effective and lasting approaches for guiding clinicians in serving patients across the cancer trajectory. Each year, more than 100 clinicians participate in our Comskil training program.

This unique program has a dedicated team of teachers, facilitators, and program staff. Training sessions consist of didactic lectures, followed by small group role play sessions with standardized patients led by experienced faculty and facilitators. We evaluate all trainings to continually improve participants’ experiences. Our facilities include a conference room and six state-of-the-art video-recording training rooms. Virtual training options are also available.

While the curriculum was developed for providing cancer care, it is adaptable for professionals in hospice settings, or those treating people with other chronic or critical health conditions.

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
  • Responding to challenging interactions with families
  • Responding empathically to patients’ emotions and concerns
  • Improving team communication

The Comskil program is primarily offered to nurses, faculty, medical trainees, advanced practice providers and other staff who regularly interact with patients at MSK. Training opportunities are occasionally offered to clinicians at other institutions as well. If you are interested in learning more, please contact the Comskil program at [email protected].

Upcoming Trainings:

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

Director, Communication Skills Training and Research Program

Smita Banerjee
Smita C. Banerjee

Behavioral Scientist

William Rosa, PhD, MBE, MS
William Rosa

Assistant Attending Behavioral Scientist

Affiliated Faculty
William S. Breitbart, MD
William S. Breitbart

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

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

Associate Attending Psychiatrist

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