Dr. Kathy Pfaff


I am an Associate Professor of Nursing at the University of Windsor and a registered nurse.  I spent my early years living in Western Canada, but Windsor, Ontario has been my home for 43 years. My 33-year nursing career spans the acute care, community care, and academic sectors. I have teaching and research interests in healthy aging and palliative care. My research program is now broadly centered on evaluating the implementation and impacts of compassionate models of healthcare delivery. I enjoy academic writing and giving presentations; they are personal strengths of my research program. I am a passionate champion for compassionate communities (CC). I co-developed Ontario’s CC framework and am a member of Ontario’s CC Research Leadership team. At the regional level, I serve on the Erie St. Clair Regional Hospice Palliative Care Advisory Council. At home, I am blessed with a wonderfully supportive husband, four remarkable young adult children and their partners, one grandchild, and my constant companion, Sam, a devoted Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I am also an essential caregiver and health advocate for my aging parents.


Bachelor of Science in Nursing, University of Windsor, 1988
Master of Science (Nursing), University of Windsor, 2008
Doctor of Philosophy (Nursing), McMaster University, 2013


Philosophy of Research

I believe that the goal of research is to inform excellence in nursing practice and education and healthcare policy. I subscribe to the highest standards of ethical conduct in all research activity. My research interests originate with my own curiosities related to contemporary changes in the healthcare system and its impact on nursing practice and patient/client care. This process has evolved as I have come to clearly identify my own philosophy of nursing science. That is, I believe that there is no one absolute truth, but rather multiple truths and ways of knowing. From a methodological perspective, this implies that there is no one way of ‘doing science.’ The methods depend on the research question and the phenomenon under study. I believe in strong collaboration and interprofessional research partnerships. In this way, ideas can be challenged, and the unique knowledge and expertise of each researcher combined to strengthen the study, and therefore its contribution to nursing and the health sciences. I believe that key stakeholders (especially patients, clients and their families) should be involved in informing research from conception through dissemination and that knowledge translation is embedded throughout all phases of the research process to support timely uptake of the findings by users. 

Research Program

My broad research program is branded as REACH – REsearch to Advance Compassionate Healthcare. Specific research interests are in:

Compassionate Communities
Palliative Care
Interprofessional Collaboration
Survey Research
Qualitative Methods
Mixed Methods
Systematic Reviews


Teaching Philosophy

I believe that the goal of teaching is to facilitate learning, self-discovery, and mastery. As such it cannot be separated from learning. Teaching involves facilitating a safe, positive learning environment for learning to occur, and it requires insight into learning styles in order to promote change in learner insight and attitude. There is scholarship in teaching and learning - A good teacher must seek out evidence-based approaches to teaching that promote learning and enhance the learning experience. When fully engaged, the teacher participates with learners in shared learning. I believe that teaching and learning involves mentorship, and that a good mentor fosters safe, competent, self-directed practice and life-long learning.  Learners are not always provided the answer but are guided in the use of resources, critical thinking, and other strategies to develop their own learning plans and to answer their own questions. The process of teaching and learning involves a mutual teacher-learner relationship – we value, need, and benefit from one another. Professional respect and communication between the teacher and learner are essential for effective teaching and learning. I expect that students approach learning activities in a positive manner, prepared to participate to the best of their abilities. As a teacher, I am also responsible to convey the same positive attitude and skill toward my teaching. Learners can expect that I demonstrate preparedness and excellence in my own teaching.

Teaching Interests

Adult Health and Healthy Aging
Palliative Care
Health Promotion
Research Methods
Community Health Nursing
Theoretical Foundations in Nursing

GRANTS (last five years):

An Inter-provincial comparison of innovative programs that help individuals and families affected by life-limiting chronic illnesses navigate end-of-life, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, 2018/6 - 2022/5, Total Funding = 264,158. Co-investigator.

Innovative model of community palliative care for vulnerable and underserved populations, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, 2017/9 - 2019/8, Total Funding = 100,000. Co-investigator.

An international palliative care collaboration: Engaging scholars and communities to support best practices, Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Scholarships, Universities Canada, 2014/1-2018/12, Total Funding = 156,800. Principal Investigator.

Exploring the impact of social and material factors on access to care, Erie-St. Clair Local Health Integration Network, 2017/1 - 2017/12, Total Funding = 20,000. Co-investigator.

Promoting interprofessional palliative care in long-term care: The impact of leadership, Faculty of Nursing, University of Windsor, 2015/4 - 2017/3, Total Funding = 2,500. Principal Investigator.

Evaluating the impact of a compassion fatigue resiliency program on cancer centre staff: A mixed methods evaluation, Windsor Regional Hospital, 2015/1 - 2015/6, Total Funding = 9,000. Co-Investigator.


Zghal, Afef; El-Masri, Maher; McMurphy, Suzanne; Pfaff, Kathryn (2020). Exploring the impact of healthcare provider cultural competence on new immigrant health-related quality of life: A cross-sectional study of Canadian newcomers. Journal of Transcultural Nursing. Available online at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1043659620967441

Moradian Zadeh, Pooya; Khani, Saghi; Pfaff, Kathryn, Samet, Saeed (2020). A computational model and algorithm to identify social isolation in elderly population. IEEE Symposium on Computers and Communications, 1-6.

Freeman, Laurie; Pfaff, Kathryn; Kopchek, Lauren; Liebman, Jordyn (2020). A cross-sectional study of palliative care nurse attitudes toward Medical Assistance in Dying in Canada. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 76(2), 535-545.

Pfaff, Kathryn; Dolovich, Lisa; Howard, Michelle; Sattler, Deborah; Zwarenstein, Merrick; Marshall, Denise (2019). Unpacking ‘the cloud’: A framework for implementing public health approaches to palliative care, Health Promotion International, early online, 1-11. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/heapro/day123

Mowbray, Fabrice; Omar, Abeer; Pfaff, Kathryn; El-Masri, Maher (2019). Exploring the factors associated with non-urgent emergency department utilization by individuals with mental illness, Journal of Research in Nursing, 24(8). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1744987119845020

Moradianzadeh, Nima; Moradian Zadeh, Pooya; Kobti, Ziad; Hansen, Sarah; Pfaff, Kathryn (2018). Using social network analysis to model palliative care, Journal of Network and Computer Applications, 120, 30-41.

Selvarajah, Kalyani; Moradian Zadeh, Pooya; Kobti, Ziad; Kargar, Mehdi; Ishraque, Mohd; Pfaff, Kathryn (2018). Team formation in community-based palliative care, Innovations in Intelligent Systems and Applications (INISTA), 1-7, doi: 10.1109/INISTA.2018.8466272.

Pfaff, Kathryn; Markaki, Ada (2017). Compassionate collaborative care: An integrative review of quality indicators in end-of-life care, BMC Palliative Care, 16(1) 1-24.

Pfaff, Kathryn; Freeman-Gibb, Laurie; Patrick, Linda, J; Di Biase, Rita; Moretti, Olivia (2016). Reducing the 'cost of caring' in cancer care: Evaluation of an interprofessional compassion fatigue resiliency program, Journal of Interprofessional Care, 31, 512-519.

Pfaff, Kathryn; Hamilton, Lisa; Jonathan, Shereen (2016). Sharing the burden: Schwartz Rounds as a compassionate collaborative practice and education model in long-term care, Nursing and Palliative Care, Available at: https://www.oatext.com/pdf/NPC-1-119.pdf


Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity Award, 2016, Faculty of Nursing, University of Windsor, 2016
Excellence in Oral Presentation Award, 2013 Faculty of Health Sciences Research Plenary, McMaster University, 2013
Faculty of the Year Award, University of Windsor, Centre for Teaching and Learning, 2012
Dr. Mary Louise Drake Research Conference Award, Faculty of Nursing, University of Windsor, 2008
Entrance Scholarship, McMaster University School of Graduate Studies, 2008
Outstanding Graduate Student Award, Tau Upsilon Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International, 2008
Research Thesis Award, Faculty of Nursing, University of Windsor, 2007
Yvette Miller Memorial Graduate Nursing Award, Faculty of Nursing, University of Windsor, 2006
Dr. Sheila Cameron Award, Faculty of Nursing, University of Windsor, 2005
Board of Governors' Medal in Nursing, University of Windsor, 1988
Florence M. Roach Award, School of Nursing, University of Windsor, 1988
University of Windsor Entrance Scholarship, 1984, renewed 1985, 1986, 1987


Doctoral Students

Padma Ravi

Masters Students

Shereen Jonathan
Lisa Hamilton
Lauren Kopchek
Jessica Chu
Afef Zghal

Outstanding Scholars

Gemma Fontanin
Mackenzie Bellaire
Mackenzie McAlpine
Felicia Varacalli
Jessica Marton
Madison Broadbent
Elizabeth Bull
Shereen Jonathan
Lisa Hamilton