The Conversation Lab  

We're reimagining healthcare, one conversation at a time.


The Conversation Lab™ is an educational and system-based initiative created in partnership with UHN to improve serious illness care and is made possible with generous support given to the UHN Foundation.

Our Vision

A health care system where every clinician is trained and empowered to skillfully discuss what matters most with their seriously ill patients and families.

Our Mission

Most healthcare providers in practice tell us they received very little training on how to communicate with their patients and families facing serious and life-threatening illness. The Conversation Lab™ was created to eliminate this education gap and lead research to enhance serious illness care in and beyond our health system.

Our Approach

Patients and families want their healthcare providers to discuss what matters most to them. Doing so results in less stress, increased goal-concordant care, and better quality of life. We've developed guides to help you have these conversations that are backed by evidence. Their language has been designed to support, empower and provide comfort to your patients and their loved ones while increasing your confidence to do this important work. They've also been shown to lead to more, earlier and better conversations. Our guides can be used for early advance care planning or later goals of care conversations, including breaking bad news conversations and family meetings.

"This is exactly what I wish I had been taught earlier in my training. Thank you for creating this helpful tool. It's made my family meetings so much more effective."
—Ali, PGY2 Family Medicine

Tools to add to every clinician's communication toolkit

All resources are in PDF  format unless otherwise indicated.

Patient and Family Guide – give to your patients and families to assist them in knowing what questions to ask in order to take control of their care.

Or use the QR code below to open the document:

qr code Communication Skills Guide

Translations available:

Clinician Conversation Guides – designed for you to lead a structured evidence-based serious illness conversation. Start at the top and work your way down to the bottom.

Or use the QR code to open
Talking to your patient:

qr code Clinician Conversation Guide

Or use the QR code to open
Talking to their substitute decision-maker:

qr code Clinician Conversation Guide Substitute Decision Maker

Communication Skills Guide – offers high-yield techniques to help you more confidently deliver serious news and respond to emotion with empathy. The evidence shows that investing in communication skills training enhances clinician empathy and leads to increased patient trust in their health care team.

Or use the QR code below to open the document:

qr code Communication Skills Guide

Documentation Guide – shows you how to document your conversation in EPIC. It's important for everyone to be aware of what matters most to your patient and family to drive goal-concordant care.

Or use the QR code to open
EPIC Documentation Guide:

qr code EPIC Documentation

Or use the QR code to open
Planning for your future care using myUHN Patient Portal:

qr code Planning for your future care using myUHN Patient Portal

Learning opportunities

We know you have great skills! We also recognize that becoming a skilled expert takes time and practice. Our 3 training options have been developed to help you refresh or build on your already-existing skillset.

1. Online learning modules – two 20-minute interactive courses available anytime. The first teaches you how to use our conversation guide and the second provides an overview of high-yield communication skills to more effectively discuss serious news and respond to anticipated emotions. These modules are prerequisites to attending our half-day skills workshop. Links coming soon!

  • e-module 1 – Using a Conversation Guide
  • e-module 2 – Overview of High-Yield Communication Skills

2. Workshop – attend a half-day virtual or in-person workshop to practice your skills using VitalTalk's™ internationally proven teaching method. We will review content from our e-modules and interact with standardized patients using real-world cases to practice skills. Contact us to learn how to organize a workshop for your specialty.

"After only a few hours of teaching, this workshop completely transformed my clinical practice and increased my confidence in having conversations about serious illness. I continue to use these skills every day and would highly recommend this training to any learner."
—Natalie, PGY3 Enhanced Skills UofT Resident

3. Real-time coaching – direct observation and feedback currently being piloted at the Toronto Western Hospital through consultation with palliative care.

Thank you for being a part of the conversation.

The Conversation Lab logo  


Supported by

UHN Foundation logo

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