Patient education is one of the important elements of nursing care. It is also an integral part of a patient's care plan during all steps, from admission to hospital discharge. Effective and individualized patient education is critical for ideal patient recovery and optimal functioning for those living with chronic disease.
Luckily, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – Nursing Education Concentration online program can equip you with the necessary skills for patient education and family support in any number of healthcare settings for any number of medical scenarios.
Why Is Patient Education Important?
Patient education is important for several reasons. Patients who are well informed about their health can participate with nurses and healthcare providers to design a customized plan of care that considers their individual needs, preferences and lifestyle. When patients are involved in their healthcare, they are more likely to follow through with their treatment recommendations. In addition, "patients who are more knowledgeable about their health are more likely to use self-management techniques, attend their follow-up appointments, and ask their doctors questions about their care."
Effective patient education also results in greater patient satisfaction with healthcare providers and the care received. Patients who understand their treatment plans and actively participate in managing their health and/or recovery also have better health outcomesand incur lower healthcare costs.
What Are Some Strategies for Teaching Patients and Families?
Before implementing any patient teaching, it is important to assess health literacy. The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) defines health literacy as "the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process, and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions."
If a patient cannot read well or is visually impaired, does not have access to a computer or cell phone, or does not like using online technology, then teaching material presented through a written online format will be ineffective. For this reason, providers should do a health literacy assessment before any patient teaching begins. The AHRQ has several health literacy assessment tools that providers can adapt and use depending on the clinical need.
Here are four other ways to ensure patient education is more effective:
- 1. Identify the patient's strengths and limitations
As noted above, patients with visual impairments and those who cannot read well may struggle with printed material, so find out if patients with these limitations would prefer information in another format such as video and audio or if larger print would help. Conversely, patients with hearing impairments may prefer printed materials and video or hands-on demonstrations.
- Find ways to engage the patient in their healthcare management
By establishing rapport and trust with a patient, the nurse can understand what is important to the patient and their lifestyle. Nurses can do this by answering the patient's questions and asking them questions to understand them better. Using this information, the nurse can individualize teaching to include important patient goals and preferences to address the patient's concerns and help them take ownership of their health and/or recovery.
- Involve family members in patient teaching
Spouses, partners, parents, extended family and close friends may all be important social supports who will assist the patient in managing their recovery and/or chronic condition. For this reason, be sure to identify and include social support members during patient teaching as appropriate. Remember that these social supports will need to have their health literacy assessed before teaching begins.
- Check patient and family learning
Using the "teach-back" method, nurses can ensure the information they have taught has been correctly received and understood. "During patient teach-back, providers explain patient medical conditions, treatment options, or self-care instructions to patients. They then ask patients to repeat the information back to them in their own words," one article notes. This method helps nurses determine gaps in the patient's or family's understanding and focus on further teaching and clarification.
Patients who are knowledgeable and involved in their healthcare management are more likely to adhere to a prescribed treatment plan, have better health outcomes and save money on healthcare costs. Nurses can work towards this goal with patients by assessing their health literacy to start, individualizing patient teaching, involving social support members in the teaching process and checking to ensure the patient correctly understands what they need to do to improve their health.
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