Community Education

“Communication leads to community.”
Rollo May

CCM’s community education series, GOOD COMMUNICATION IS GOOD MEDICINE®, uses videos and accompanying study guides to explore the patient’s experience of illness and the effect it has on families, friends and medical professionals. Public awareness programs can serve as a platform for shaping a better understanding of each person’s role and responsibility in improving communication about how healthcare is delivered.

Illness is part of the human condition. It doesn’t just happen to patients. Each caregiver, whether a family member or a professional, has an experience that is both separate from and connected to the person who is the patient. Research studies show that patients tend to conceal their distress because of a perceived need to protect family and friends as well as to avoid their doctors’ “disapproval.” This avoidance can result in a form of collusion between doctors, patients, and even family and friends, all of whom may hesitate to communicate openly about the difficulties of living with life-threatening illness.1 The perspectives of all within the sphere of illness need to be recognized and understood in order to promote clear communication and make informed decisions.

CCM’s new Difficult Conversations Workbook includes a video that is used to introduce the community program. Following the viewing there is a panel discussion and interactive audience participation. The panel can include a range of individuals living and working within the sphere of illness: patients, family, friends, physicians, nurses, psychologists, social workers, clergy members and, by prior arrangement, CCM’s resident medical humanist. A moderator facilitates the discussion. Topics that have been presented at previous community forums have included: patients’ expectations of doctors; the impact of illness on one’s sense of self and relationships; spirituality and illness; and the changing definition of “hope.” The Difficult Conversations Workbook chapters allow for programs to be customized for specific audiences.

The community forums are designed to offer attendees a deeper understanding of the impact of illness on patients, families, friends and healthcare professionals; to develop a better understanding of the role of communication in medical decision making; and to help activate patients to identify and access resources needed to cope with illness.

The Difficult Conversations Workbook package for community educators includes a video, writing exercises and facilitator’s guide. The materials have been produced for presentation to community groups. Although CCM includes a panel for its programs, the materials can be used for prompting discussions without a panel. It can also be viewed in the privacy of one’s home.

Byrne A, Ellershaw J, Holcombe C, et al Patients experience of cancer: evidence of the role of “fighting” in collusive clinical communication. Patient Educ Couns 2002; 48:15-21.


Here’s what some past attendees had to say about CCM’s Community Education Programs:

“The program was supportive of mind and spirit, which is equally as important as the physical and medical needs. The forum is a good way to reach out to the community.”


“The Center for Communication in Medicine seems to occupy places at both the heart of medicine and its boundaries. I suspect that this is a difficult balancing act and so, I want to thank you for your dedicated efforts to this important work and bringing it to the community.”


“The video was excellent. It gave people in the audience, which included not only patients’ family members and friends but also doctors and nurses the opportunity share their own experiences.”


“Your program [‘Being Alive With Illness’] at the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan did a good job in identifying the physician’s role in recognizing when medicine has little to offer in the way of solutions. And, at the same time offering ways they might shift their conversations with patients at this juncture to their sources of hope and what is personally meaningful to them.”


“CCM’s message [good communication is good medicine] really speaks to all patients living with a chronic illness—not just cancer.”