As a nurse, you have many roles. Besides providing medical care and emotional support, you may also fill the role of patient educator. A solid patient education plan should not be underestimated; it can contribute to a more successful treatment and recovery process, not to mention improvements to the patient’s long-term health.
Why Educate Patients?
While nurses have always provided patients with health literacy, at least in part, it became a more prominent feature of nursing care following the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2010. The ACA used the CDC’s definition of health literacy: “The degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services to make appropriate health decisions.”
Knowledge Makes Patients More Proactive
It is important for patients to develop health literacy so that they can take a more proactive role in their health. When patients know the details of their medical situation as well as the underlying or contributing factors that impact their health, they are able to make more informed decisions.
Patients who have a better understanding of their disease or condition and the associated consequences may be more compliant in their treatment plans. When they are aware of the trajectory of their treatment and what to expect, they may also experience greater satisfaction in terms of their care. Increased adherence and cooperation can lead to improved outcomes as well as the willingness to seek preventive care.
Education Prevents Readmissions
Unfortunately, a number of studies including one published in the December 2015 issue of the American Journal of Surgery have found that patients may not understand details of their unique health situation. The study reported that only 24 percent of patients were able to fully comprehend instructions following hospital discharge. Moreover, 65 percent of the patients who were readmitted within 30 days were those unable to understand discharge instructions. A renewed focus on patient education may help to prevent these types of situations.
How Do I Educate Patients?
Since patients often rely on the guidance of nurses throughout each healthcare encounter, nurses must be able to provide information to patients at a level they can understand. While nurses can learn some patient education strategies on-the-job, many online RN to BSN programs now incorporate coursework that covers these critical strategies. In addition, nurses who stay up-to-date on the latest research and advances in patient care may be better positioned to communicate this information to patients.
Although physicians are involved in patient education, it is often the nurses who distribute the medication, therapy or provide follow-up instructions and care. Nurses are also frequently the point of contact between physicians and patients and their family members. These interactions are the ideal time to supply the patient with information related to their illness or disease and ensure that patients understand what they’ve been told.
How Do Nurses Educate Patients?
Education can occur in a number of ways. Throughout each interaction, nurses can verbally relay helpful information to patients and their caregivers such as methods for self-care, disease management and preventive care. Due to the complexity of the information, though, nurses can also send printouts home with patients for later review — a method that proves quite effective.
As access to technology and the internet has increased, devices such as smartphones, tablets and computers may also assist in patient education methods. For example, nurses can use videos, diagrams and other interactive media to review medication and treatment information with the patient. These interactive patient education models may lead to greater comprehension and engagement.
One of the goals of patient-centered healthcare is to provide the patient with opportunities to become more involved in their treatment and overall health. By offering a range of individualized educational materials and staying abreast of the latest research, nurses can be instrumental in helping to empower patients, and ideally, in improving patients’ long-term health as well.
Learn about the CSUSM online RN to BSN program.
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