Caring for Family Caregivers: a Pilot Test of an Online COMFORT™ SM Communication Training Module for Undergraduate Nursing Students

  • Elaine WittenbergEmail author
  • Joy V. Goldsmith
  • Y’Esha Williams
  • Angella Lee


Family caregivers who provide care and support to cancer patients experience distress, burden, and decreased quality of life as a result of caregiving. Caregivers often turn to nurses for support; however, there is little training available for nurses on how to care for the family caregiver. Undergraduate nursing students have a high need to learn about engaging caregivers in care, but little content is presented to fulfill that need. Derived from the COMFORT™ SM communication curriculum, we developed a 1-h online educational module specifically addressing communication with family caregivers of cancer patients. Undergraduate nursing students (n = 128) from two accredited nursing programs completed a survey at the beginning and end of the module, in addition to answering unfolding response opportunities within the module. There was a significant increase in communication knowledge, attitude, and behaviors (p < .000) in post-test responses for students across all years of study. Knowledge based on responses to case study scenarios was more than 75% correct. Student open-ended responses to case-based scenarios featured in the module revealed student mastery and ability to apply module content (range, 40–56% across four scenarios). This online COMFORT™ SM communication training module is an innovative online cancer education tool for teaching about communication with family caregivers. This study finds the module effective for teaching undergraduate nursing students about communication with family and shows promise in interprofessional curricula as well.


Cancer Communication Online nursing education Family caregivers 



The authors would like to thank Dr. Deanna Sellnow of the Nicholson School of Communication and Media at the University of Central Florida for her work in the development of the course components.

Funding Information

Research reported in this publication was partially supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under award number R25CA174627.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Research involving human participants was approved by the University. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.


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Copyright information

© American Association for Cancer Education 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Communication StudiesCalifornia State University, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Communication Studies, Art & Communication Bldg 235University of MemphisMemphisUSA
  3. 3.Loewenberg College of Nursing, 3566 Community Health BuildingUniversity of MemphisMemphisUSA
  4. 4.School of NursingCalifornia State University, Los AngelesLos AngelesUSA

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