Skip to main content Accessibility help

Conducting family meetings in palliative care: Themes, techniques, and preliminary evaluation of a communication skills module

  • Jennifer A. Gueguen (a1), Carma L. Bylund (a1), Richard F. Brown (a1), Tomer T. Levin (a1) and David W. Kissane (a1)...



To develop a communication skills training module for health care professionals about how to conduct a family meeting in palliative care and to evaluate the module in terms of participant self-efficacy and satisfaction.


Forty multispecialty health care professionals from the New York metropolitan area attended a communication skills training module at a Comprehensive Cancer Center about how to conduct a family meeting in oncology. The modular content was based on the Comskil model and current literature in the field.


Based on a retrospective pre–post measure, participants reported a significant increase in self-efficacy about their ability to conduct a family meeting. Furthermore, at least 93% of participants expressed their satisfaction with various aspects of the module by agreeing or strongly agreeing with statements on the course evaluation form.

Significance of results:

Family meetings play a significant role in the palliative care setting, where family support for planning and continuing care is vital to optimize patient care. Although these meetings can be challenging, this communication skills module is effective in increasing the confidence of participants in conducting a family meeting.


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to: David W. Kissane, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Chairman, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, 641 Lexington Ave., 7th floor, New York, NY 10022. E-mail:


Hide All
Aranda, S.K. & Hayman-White, K. (2001). Home caregivers of the person with advanced cancer: An Australian perspective. Cancer Nursing, 24, 300307.
Barg, F.K., Pasacreta, J.V., Nuamah, I.F., et al. (1998). A description of a psychoeducational intervention for family caregivers of cancer patients. Journal of Family Nursing, 4, 394413.
Brown, R.F. & Bylund, C.L. (2008). Communication skills training: Describing a new conceptual model. Academic Medicine, 83, 3744.
Ferrell, B.R., Ferrell, B.A., Rhiner, M., et al. (1991). Family factors influencing cancer pain management. Post-Graduate Medical Journal, 67 (Suppl. 2), S6469.
Given, B. & Given, W. (1989). Cancer nursing for the elderly. Cancer Nursing, 12, 7177.
Harding, R. & Higginson, I.J. (2003). What is the best way to help caregivers in cancer and palliative care? A systematic literature review of interventions and their effectiveness. Palliative Medicine, 17, 6374.
Higginson, I., Finlay, I.G., Goodwin, D.M., et al. (2003). Is there evidence that palliative care teams alter end-of-life experiences of patients and their caregivers? Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, 25, 150168.
Hill, L.G. & Betz, D.L. (2006). Revisiting the retrospective pretest. American Journal of Evaluation, 26, 501517.
Hudson, P., Aranda, S. & McMurray, N. (2002). Intervention development for enhanced lay palliative caregiver support: The use of focus groups. European Journal of Cancer Care, 11, 262270.
Hudson, P.L., Aranda, S. & Kristjanson, L.J. (2004). Meeting the supportive needs of family caregivers in palliative care: Challenges for health professionals. Journal of Palliative Medicine, 7, 1925.
Kissane, D.W. (1994). Grief and the family. In The Family in Clinical Psychiatry, Bloch, S., Hafner, J., Harari, E. et al. (eds.), pp. 7191. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Kissane, D.W., Bloch, S., Burns, W.I., et al. (1994). Perceptions of family functioning and cancer. Psycho-Oncology, 3, 259269.
Kissane, D.W., Bloch, S., Dowe, D.L., et al. (1996). The Melbourne family grief study, I: Perceptions of family functioning in bereavement. American Journal of Psychiatry, 153, 650658.
Kissane, D.W., Bylund, C., Brown, R., et al. (2007). Conducting a Family Meeting. New York: Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
Kissane, D.W., McKenzie, M., Bloch, S., et al. (2006). Family focused grief therapy: A randomized controlled trial in palliative care and bereavement. American Journal of Psychiatry, 163, 12081218.
Kissane, D.W., McKenzie, M., McKenzie, D.P., et al. (2003). Psychosocial morbidity associated with patterns of family functioning in palliative care: Baseline data from the Family Focused Grief Therapy controlled trail. Palliative Medicine, 17, 527537.
Kristjanson, L.J., Leis, A., Koop, P.M., et al. (1997). Family members' care expectations, care perceptions, and satisfaction with advanced cancer care: Results of a multi-site pilot study. Journal of Palliative Care, 13, 513.
Miller, K. (2002). Communication Theories: Perspectives, Processes, and Contexts. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Milne, D. (1999). When Cancer Won't Go Away: The Needs and Experiences of Family Caregivers. Unpublished Master of Nursing thesis. Melbourne, Australia: University of Melbourne.
Patterson, J.M. (2002). Understanding family resilience. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 58, 233246.
Pratt, C.C., McGuigan, W.M. & Katzev, A.R. (2001). Measuring program outcomes”: Using retrospective pretest methodology. American Journal of Evaluation, 21, 341349.
Rait, D. & Lederberg, M.S. (1989). The family of the cancer patient. In Handbook of Psychooncology: Psychological Care of the Patient with Cancer, Holland, J.C. & Rowland, J.H. (eds.), pp. 585597. New York: Oxford University Press.
Rockwell, S.K. & Kohn, H. (1989). Post-then-pre evaluation. Journal of Extension, 27, a5.
Rose, K.E. (1999). A qualitative analysis of the information needs of informal carers of terminally ill cancer patients. Journal of Clinical Nursing, 8, 8188.
Sutherland, A. (1956). Psychological impact of cancer and its therapy. Medical Clinics of North America, 40, 705720.
Tomm, K. (1987 a). Interventive interviewing, part I: Strategizing as a fourth guideline for the therapist. Family Process, 26, 313.
Tomm, K. (1987 b). Interventive interviewing, part II: Reflexive questioning as a means to enable self-healing. Family Process, 26, 167183.
Tomm, K. (1988). Interventive interviewing, part III: Intending to ask lineal, circular, strategic, or reflexive questions? Family Process, 27, 115.
Walsh, F. (2002). A family resilience framework: Innovative practice implications. Family Relations, 51, 130138.
Walsh, F. (2003). Family resilience: A framework for clinical practice. Family Process, 42, 118.
Yang, C.T. & Kirschling, J.M. (1992). Exploration of factors related to direct care and outcomes of caregiving: Caregivers of terminally ill older persons. Cancer Nursing, 15, 173181.
Yudkowsky, R., Downing, S.M. & Ommert, D. (2006). Prior experiences associated with residents' scores on a communication and interpersonal skill OSCE. Patient Education and Counseling, 62, 430434.


Conducting family meetings in palliative care: Themes, techniques, and preliminary evaluation of a communication skills module

  • Jennifer A. Gueguen (a1), Carma L. Bylund (a1), Richard F. Brown (a1), Tomer T. Levin (a1) and David W. Kissane (a1)...


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed