Knowledge is power in every realm of life, but perhaps the most vital realm is that of health and wellness. As a new nurse or healthcare professional, you’re acutely aware that your duties extend far beyond tending to your patients’ immediate needs—and that effective patient teaching is a crucial part of your responsibilities.
Research backs the importance of patient education, too. According to a 2022 systematic review published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, patient teaching enhances adherence to treatment plans and may result in stronger patient outcomes. From giving your patients detailed written instructions to recommending key apps to monitor their progress, there’s a myriad of ways to help your patients take a proactive role in their health.
And yet, hectic medical environments, a lack of resources, and a disconnect between you and your patients can lead to less than stellar results. But not to worry—we’re here to point you in the right direction. Read on for the top strategies for patient teaching in a valuable, effective, and potentially life-saving manner.
What Is Patient Education?
Patient education (or patient teaching, as it’s also called) is the act of furnishing your patients with the essential information they need to successfully handle their own health.
This may occur in several ways, such as:
- Supplying patients with a thorough overview of their medical condition
- Breaking down complicated medical jargon into easy-to-digest language
- Relaying critical information about prescription medications
- Explaining risk factors for certain health conditions
- Reviewing symptoms that may require immediate medical attention
- Demonstrating how to bathe an infant to new parents
- Showing caregivers and/or family member(s) how to properly feed a patient with advanced Alzheimer’s disease
To phrase it differently, patient teaching is meeting your patient where they are and ensuring they leave your care with the knowledge and understanding they require to achieve or sustain their wellness, take preventative measures to protect their well-being, and follow through with their prescribed treatment.
Why Is Patient Education Important?
Health literacy can be the defining factor between wellness and relapse that requires admission to a hospital or the exacerbation of a medical condition. Indeed, the CDC confirms that improving one’s comprehension of their health can help:
- Prevent future health problems
- Nurture a person’s overall wellness
- Identify and act on health complications when they emerge
Whether you’re in your final year of earning your doctorate in nursing or have been working as a traveling nurse for years, it’s important to bear in mind that you possess extremely sophisticated knowledge about health that may be well beyond your patients’ understanding. And providing your patients with this information can make all the difference in their recovery.
Even the most well-read and physically attuned patients may struggle to grasp the intricacies of their health condition, or the next steps they should take in the days, weeks, and months following.
This may be especially true if the patient is:
- Experiencing fatigue and/or confusion after being admitted to the hospital
- Digesting the news about a serious diagnosis
- Uncertain about the root cause of their health issue
- Dealing with a health complication that requires complex self-care
Nurses are ubiquitous, comprising an estimated 70% of a patient’s healthcare team. This means that much of the time, patients spend more time with nurses than any other member of their medical squad. As such, if you are a nurse, you’re in a perfect position to prepare your patients for at-home self-management.
3 Benefits of Good Patient Education
The information you offer your patients is likely as diverse as the patients you administer to and the medical conditions you treat. Nonetheless, the advantages of patient teaching have several themes in common, namely:
- Prompts patient compliance – A patient may be considerably more amenable to sticking to their dietary restrictions and taking their medications as (and when) prescribed if they have a clearer understanding of the potential consequences. This isn’t meant to suggest you ought to use scare tactics to guide your patients. Rather, conveying the why behind your instructions is one of the golden tickets to encouraging your patients to heed your care directives.
- Boosts patient satisfaction – It’s a common refrain: Patients frequently feel that they receive very little of their physician’s time, energy, and attention. It’s also widely known that nurses function as the liaison between the physician and the patient—and nurses who also offer patient education may ultimately leave patients feeling more confident and empowered.
- Improves patient outcomes – Patients who leave your nursing care with little knowledge about their condition may return to the lifestyle choices that harmed their health in the first place. They may also fail to understand the importance of taking their medication or be unaware that they should call 911 if they experience a specific symptom. Equipped with a sound comprehension of where their health stands and what they must do next may naturally translate to more enriched health.
How to Collaborate on Goals and Patient Outcomes
It’s safe to say that you entered the healthcare profession because of your passion for and commitment to elevating the lives of others. Patient teaching deepens this. It fosters trust that works in both ways: Your patient trusts you to give them the most informative advice about their health, and you watch your patient return to their lives galvanized, assured, and healthier.
There are a host of ways to facilitate this. Let’s look at 5 of the most beneficial.
#1 Acknowledge Barriers to Effective Health Education
You may go into a room for a “lesson” inpatient teaching with the best intentions in mind but find that extenuating circumstances may complicate your ability to give your patients the data, details, and directions they need to safely leave your nursing care. These may include:
- Language barriers – If you’re searching for travel nursing jobs, you may find yourself working in communities that are only able to speak one language. This can thwart patient teaching, if not render it impossible. If you work in a hospital, you may have access to a translator, but research reveals that almost a third of hospitals in the U.S. do not have interpreters on hand.
Fortunately, technology can work in your favor if this is the case. Apps such as Google Translator and MediBabble can help you bridge this divide. Additionally, be sure to supply your patient with written instructions and information in their primary language.
- Literacy barriers – Roughly 54% of adults aren’t proficient in literacy—a central statistic to keep in mind as you hone your patient teaching methods. To overcome this, you may want to give your patients visual information. Infographics, animated videos, or illustrations can all be invaluable in communicating key facts and reminders.
- Sensory barriers – As you know, you may encounter patients who have an impairment, such as a hearing or visual impairment. Proper planning, as well as empathy and patience, can go an exceptionally long way in this regard. For example, you may bring in someone who is fluent in sign language when providing patient teaching to an individual who has experienced hearing loss.
#2 Step Into Your Patient’s Shoes
Effective patient education begins with acknowledging what we mentioned above: That you are a healthcare expert, and that your patient may be brand new to taking their health into their own hands.
To this end:
- Ensure that you simplify concepts to make them as effortlessly accessible as possible by using common terms for health complications (heart attack vs myocardial infarction).
- Refrain from using abbreviations unless you’re certain your patient understands what the abbreviation stands for.
In a similar vein, remember that learning too much at once can be overwhelming, especially if your patient has recently endured a nerve-wracking health scare. Go slow, be patient, and ask if they understand before moving on.
#3 Adopt the “Teach-Back” Method
You may recall the basics of the “teach-back method” from grade school, high school, nursing school, or even interactions with your caregivers as a child. Simply put, it’s a method of asking your patients to repeat back what they know about their chronic condition and the course of treatment to confirm that they understand. Repetition, in the end, is one of the most indispensable models for retaining information.
#4 Utilize Helpful Technology
Technology can work beautifully in your favor, too. Studies indicate that supplementing patient education with the assistance of technology can improve patient outcomes. This may include introducing patients to telehealth services such as online bookings, recommending a fitness app to help them keep track of their daily steps, or installing push notifications on their phones to remind them to take their medication.
#5 Utilize Teaching Opportunities
With the exception of patients who are just out of surgery or in no capacity to absorb new information, every time you visit your patient—whether it’s in the emergency room or a primary care setting—is an optimal time to conduct patient teaching.
This could look like:
- Reminding your patient and/or their caregiver to change their bandages frequently
- Showing new mothers how to hold their baby while breastfeeding
Make every interaction count.
Staying Passionate and Positive About Nursing with MAS Medical
Patient education has been a significant aspect of the nursing profession since the days of Florence Nightingale in the mid-1800s. As physicians have progressively less time to spend with their patients, a nurse’s obligation to edify and prepare their patients has become more important than ever.
MAS Medical Staffing can keep your devotion to patient teaching relevant, dynamic, and exciting. As one of the top travel nursing agencies in the country, we excel at a different type of professional education: Informing qualified nurses of the opportunities that await them. With competitive pay and housing assistance, we have precisely what you need to see the world while doing what you love.
Book a consultation with us today to level up your nursing network and career.
Journal of Medical Internet Research. Educating patients by providing timely information using smartphone and tablet apps: systematic review.
Nurse Journal. 10 ways nurses and nurse leaders can improve patient education.
Global Qualitative Nursing Research. Registered nurses’ patient education in everyday primary care practice.
National Institute on Aging. Caring for a person with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Understanding health literacy.
The Journal of Nursing Research. Moving into action: the master key to patient education.
University of Chicago News. Primary care doctors would need more than 24 hours in a day to provide recommended care.
Reuters. Required translators missing from many U.S. hospitals.
Forbes. Low literacy levels among U.S. adults could be costing the ecomony $2.2 trillion per year.https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaeltnietzel/2020/09/09/low-literacy-levels-among-us-adults-could-be-costing-the-economy-22-trillion-a-year/?sh=10ed4eda4c90
Federal Practitioner. Use and effectiveness of the teach-back method in patient education and health outcomes.
Research Gate. Repetition is the first principle of all learning.