Strategies for successful patient teaching

Strategies for successful patient teachingAs nurses we have been taught, throughout our years of training, about the need for providing patient education. The goal of our efforts is to provide the patient with easy-to-understand materials and information they can use to make informed choices about how they will participate in the management of their health issues.  It is easy, however, to become overwhelmed with our daily activities and not take the time to provide education that is easy to understand and gives the patient information they need to be a willing partner in their care plan. Fortunately, there are strategies that can help us achieve better success with educating our patient population.

The most important thing is to start right away. The first time a patient is seen in our clinics take the opportunity to begin laying the foundation for them to understand their health issue and the steps that should be taken to help optimize their health outcomes. Take the time in the beginning to determine what they already know about their illness. This will help you avoid spending time on subjects that the patient may already understand and instead covering other important topics. For example, if they already know why they need to take a medication but they do not always come to pill line, our nursing time might be better spent on patient motivation for self-care.

Break your training up. Do not overwhelm the patient with everything they need to know in one sitting. Provide training during each encounter whether that is a sick call visit or a chronic care visit. If a chronic care patient comes to sick call for an unrelated issue, take the time to check on their progress in addressing their chronic illness based on the education that already has been provided to them. Continual motivation, education and support can be the thing that empowers the patient to really own their self-care.

When providing patient education consider the education level and literacy of the patient. Many of our patients cannot understand complex medical terms and explanations. The Corizon Health Patient Information Fact Sheets have been written on an approximately sixth grade educational level so they may be better used for our patient population. They can be quite beneficial in supporting your patient education efforts. Always make your training patient specific when it comes to ability to understand and act on the information you will share.

Goal setting is another critical piece of patient education activities. The nurse and the patient should decide together on goals and objectives. Progress toward goals should be measured during each encounter. Ensure the goals are realistic and understood. Make the goals reasonable and attainable. Celebrate success and encourage continued effort when goals seem difficult to attain.

Our patients often find it very difficult to make healthy choices when trying to address their health care needs. It is important that we address the barriers to self-care that often present themselves in the correctional setting. Help the patient understand how to make the best choices for meals or when making purchases from the commissary. Provide guidance about how to more successfully use their time on the recreation yard to help them reach their exercise goals. Work with your facility leaders to obtain patient education materials specific to the correctional setting. The Centers for Disease control have a number of valuable teaching materials developed specifically for incarcerated patients.

And finally, document the teaching process. Good documentation of patient education supports continuity of care efforts between the many health care team members who provide care to the patient. Each caregiver should be able to review the health record and easily determine what education has been provided to date, what successes have occurred and the challenges that remain. It takes team work to provide effective patient education. As nurses, let’s continue to keep our patients first by providing thoughtful, meaningful and effective educational information.

by: Becky Pinney, SVP of Nursing