Patient education is a learning process through which healthcare professionals educate and empower patients to understand and manage life with an existing health condition. The planned intervention includes providing patients with information on pain management, preventative measures, and healthy lifestyle habits outside of a healthcare facility. Patient education increases and treatment adherence positive medical outcomes, especially in the case of chronic illness. The role of nurses in patient education is crucial since nurses serve as a conduit between doctors and patients while providing medical services.
With more emphasis on nurses’ active participation in patient education in today’s healthcare system, the traditional dynamics of nurse-patient communication have changed. Therefore, nurses must be able to facilitate information-sharing and make patient education more straightforward. That said, listed below are a few tips nurses can use to enhance the learning process.
Learn, learn, and learn
Delivering effective patient education is contingent on your medical knowledge as a nurse. Therefore, keep your medical know-how up-to-date. For that purpose, enroll in short courses to enhance your soft and technical skills. You can also leverage flexible learning opportunities, such as an online Masters of Nursing Nurse Practitioner, to improve your expertise. These programs help nurses maintain a healthy balance between their professional duties and academic goals.
Keep communication simple
Medical terminology can be challenging to understand for anybody without knowledge. Therefore, avoid excessive usage of medical terms to ensure patients can understand information. Make your instructions as simple and specific as possible so that there is less chance for misinterpretation. There are dictionaries available that can provide you with jargon-free medical terms. You can break down information into chunks to avoid overload. In cases where using medical terminology is inevitable, such as when communicating diagnostic information, explain what it means. For instance, hypotension sounds more technical than low blood pressure. Telling a patient there is hypertrophy can be more confusing than saying there is an enlargement of a tissue.
Know your patients
Your patient pool may include people of different ages, religions, and ethnicities. They will also have varying levels of understanding. Because of this variation, it will be tricky to employ the same patient education method for everyone. Thus, consider these different factors and tailor plans based on patients’ unique level of understanding. For instance, when dealing with children, you can involve their toys to make explanations more relatable for them. When dealing with patients whose first language is not English, consider having a translator to help. Cultural sensitivity makes people more responsive to learning.
Involve family and caregivers
In addition to pain, patients dealing with chronic medical conditions are often in vulnerable emotional states. They are more likely to forget and misunderstand instructions. To overcome this hurdle, try to involve family members or caregivers present with the patient. Ensure that they follow through with the education and remember details in case the patient forgets. This is crucial in the case of patients who have designated caregivers looking after them.
Encourage questions and take feedback
Use open-ended questions to discover what concerns the patient, or their family/caregiver has regarding the treatment plan. Provide the patients with a safe space to freely state their queries without feeling judged or ashamed. It is also essential for you to be an active listener. Active listening is key to making patients feel comfortable, so practice your listening skills. Encourage feedback from patients and their caregivers to improve the overall plan.
Use a teach-back method
Patient education does not end at delivering comprehensive instructions during an appointment. You must also follow up to evaluate how well patients understood the instructions. Use the teach-back method for this purpose. Ask the patients (or the caregiver) to restate the instructions in their own words, validate their understanding, and correct them wherever required. Invite the patients to describe how they will incorporate the necessary self-care tasks into their lifestyle. Ask them if they see any impediments to following specific steps and try to help them come with solutions.
Use the internet and technology
There are components of treatment and management that necessitate patients or caregivers to operate apparatus or take readings. In such instances, try to demonstrate yourself to ensure patients know how to use the equipment. If you cannot provide demonstrations on the spot, re-direct patients to other resources on the internet. There are hospital portals, apps, and helplines available to assist patients with their immediate queries. If your hospital has such a system, introduce it to the patient and their caregivers. Sometimes verbal communication may be insufficient to teach how to use a device or implement a procedure. Use video demonstrations whenever necessary. Introduce patients (or their caregivers) to apps to help them keep track of their medication, collect health-related data, and assist them in adhering to treatments through reminders.
As a nurse, the well-being of your patients is your foremost priority. Patient education helps you change your patients’ lives to promote their well-being in the long run. Clarity of communication, appropriate use of teaching instruments, family involvement, and the teach-back method can help nurses improve patient education. It may relieve the burden on the healthcare system caused by unnecessary readmissions or preventable relapses caused by patients’ lack of awareness and self-management skills. Therefore, assess your skills and take measures to close gaps that could affect your ability to transfer information to your patients.