Nurse’s Role in Patient Education
The Nurse’s Role in Patient Education
Nurse’s Role has major impact on patient education. Nursing is not just about dispensing medication or administering treatments. After nurses graduate from a RN to BSN degree program, they become educators even if they do not work as teachers in academia. Nursing is not just about dispensing medication or administering treatments. Nurses also are responsible for teaching patients about preventing and managing medical conditions. By relaying information, nurses help patients take control of their healthcare.
Why is patient education important?
Patient education is a significant part of a nurse’s job. Education empowers patients to improve their health status. When patients are involved in their care, they are more likely to engage in interventions that may increase their chances for positive outcomes. The benefits of patient education include:
Prevention of medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease.
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Patients who are informed about what to expect during a procedure and throughout the recovery process.
Decreasing the possibility of complications by teaching patients about medications, lifestyle modifications and self-monitoring devices like a glucose meter or blood pressure monitor.
Reduction in the number of patients readmitted to the hospital.
Retaining independence by learning self-sufficiency.
What is the nurse’s role in patient education?
Effective patient education starts from the time patients are admitted to the hospital and continues until they are discharged. Nurses should take advantage of any appropriate opportunity throughout a patient’s stay to teach the patient about self-care. The self-care instruction may include teaching patients how to inject insulin, bathe an infant or change a colostomy pouching system.
Without proper education, a patient may go home and resume unhealthy habits or ignore the management of their medical condition. These actions may lead to a relapse and a return to the hospital. To educate patients, nurses may instruct patients about the following:
Self-care steps they need to take.
Why they need to maintain self-care.
How to recognize warning signs.
What to do if a problem occurs.
Who to contact if they have questions.
How can nurses ensure patient comprehension?
Many patients lack knowledge about healthcare. Nurses must assess their patients to pinpoint the best way to educate them about their health and determine how much they already know about their medical condition. They need to build a rapport with patients by asking questions to zero in on concerns. Nurses may have to adjust their teaching strategies to fit the patient’s preferences. Many patients want detailed information, though some may request only a checklist. Once nurses complete the patient assessment, they can provide instruction by using the following:
Common words and phrases.
Reading materials written at a sixth-grade level.
A hands-on approach is instrumental in guaranteeing that a patient understands medical requirements. Nurses should perform a demonstration and have patients repeat back the information or carry out the procedure themselves. Nurses should also teach the patient’s family members, friends or caregivers at home.
How are patients different?
Not every patient has the same learning ability. Patients may have developmental disorders or literacy limitations. Some patients may respond better to visual content than to plain text. Others may have hearing or vision impairment. Nurses may encounter language or cultural barriers. Consider the following questions when assessing patients.
What level of education do they have?
Can they read and comprehend directions for medications, diet, procedures and treatments?
What is the best teaching method? Reading, viewing or participating in a demonstration?
What language does the patient speak?
Does the patient want basic information or in-depth instruction?
How well does the patient see and hear?
In order to create an environment that is conducive to patient education, nurses should develop a supportive relationship with their patients. Patients equipped with knowledge can make lifestyle changes and remain self-sufficient even if they have a chronic medical condition. Education can increase the likelihood of successful outcomes and improve patient safety and satisfaction.
10 ways nurses and nurse leaders can improve patient education
Keep It Simple
Nurses and other healthcare professionals can speak in a language all their own. Myocardial infarction, cerebral embolism, dorsiflexion, and ganglion may all be everyday terms for a nurse but not for a patient. During patient education, these terms should be parked at the door.
Avoid using medical terminology and abbreviations. For example, a CBC may seem simple enough, but make sure you use “complete blood count” for your patient.
Keeping it simple also means not waiting till discharge to educate your patient. Patient education should begin during the initial assessment and continue until discharge.
Providing education in bite-sized pieces also helps your patient retain more information. Retaining information can be challenging during stressful times but is especially important during these times in a patient’s life.
Provide Educational Paperwork in Patient’s Native Language
Health literacy rates are not linked with literacy rates. A person may have excellent comprehension skills yet still have difficulty understanding healthcare information to make informed decisions.
Michelle Kotte, a psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner, emphasizes the importance of providing healthcare paperwork in the patient’s native language. If language barriers impact patient care, you can use apps for nurses like MediBabble or even Google Translate to improve the quality of healthcare and patient education.
Here are a few ways to make patient education easily understood.
Relay the information and instructions for the patient clearly.
Do not go in-depth into disease processes with a patient who is just learning about the disease.
Make sure the information is written down so the patient can review it later as needed.
Remember that the patient may be feeling overwhelmed by receiving too much information at once, so keep it simple.
Consider a Patient’s Communication Barriers
In addition to patients whose native language is not English, you may have patients with other communication barriers. Your patient education strategies should include teaching patients who have sensory impairments.
Barriers may include sight or hearing impairment or those who have cognitive issues. Nurses can overcome communication barriers with planning, compassion, and patience.
For example, you might have to rethink teaching a procedure like a dressing change. For individuals without a visual impairment, you can show where to place the tape. For visually impaired patients, you will need to talk through each step and demonstrate by touch.
Use the Teach-Back Method
Ann Kriebel-Gasparro, DrNP, FNP-BC, advises nurses to use the “teach-back” method in their patient education. Kriebel-Gasparro is a faculty member at Walden University and holds credentials as a family and gerontological nurse practitioner.
Despite evidence that the method is effective, many physicians do not use it. They cite time constraints or that patients may take offense as their reasons.
“Make sure the patient understands that you are not trying to test them, but want to understand whether you have explained things so that they understand,” Kriebel-Gasparro advises.
Another name for this method is “closing the loop.” After finishing a short bite of information, you can ask the patient to repeat it in their own words. For example, after explaining how insulin works in the body, you may say, “Just to be sure I was clear, could you tell me why you’ll be taking insulin?”
Making sure your patient repeats back accurate information ensures they understand and allows you to fill any gaps in communication.
Write Down Important Information
When a patient struggles with pain, nausea, or breathing, they will have difficulty learning new concepts or remembering details. This is how the body responds to distress. Kotte advises nurses to write detailed instructions for patients to reference later to avoid valuable patient education getting lost.
Nurses should also give patients phone numbers of people they can contact if they have questions. It is also helpful if patients have a family member with them, so someone else can help re-educate the patient if needed.
Promote Health by Continuously Educating Patients
Some of the lifestyle changes patients must make that promote health are challenging. Eating a healthier diet, quitting tobacco products, or reducing or eliminating alcohol will likely not change unless the patient is aware of how these behaviors affect their health and wellness. Patients may be in a precontemplative stage of change, says Kotte.
“This means that at that time, they have no intention of changing behavior,” Kotte explains. “This can be an emotionally challenging experience as a nurse.”
During this time, patients are often unaware or poorly understand how their behavior affects their health. Nurses play a role in helping move patients to the contemplative stage. During this time, patients become aware that the problem exists and begin to think they can overcome the issue.
Through patient education and support, patients can be encouraged to make a plan and take action. In this role, nurses can promote health by continuously and compassionately educating patients.
A Fully Staffed Floor Aids in Patient Education
Nurse-to-patient ratios have a direct impact on patient safety, outcome, and education. A high ratio may compromise a nurse’s ability to provide safe care and will affect patient outcomes. Safe ratios are dependent on patient acuity, technology, monitoring, experience, and the physical layout of the unit.
The importance of this factor led California to establish minimum ratios in 2004. To date:
15 states have staffing regulations in place
Eight states require hospitals to have staffing committees
Kriebel-Gasparro encourages nurses to take action if they find themselves short-staffed. Options include:
Joining a nursing union if your hospital has one
Creating a safe staffing group
Becoming a nurse advocate for safe staffing in your hospital
Taking advantage of nursing organizations is also an option. For instance, in Pennsylvania a group called the Nurses of PA is advocating on behalf of nurses and patients. It is a grassroots organization that has banded together to contact legislators to change laws for safe staffing in hospitals.
Telehealth Increases Education Opportunities for Nurses
The role of telehealth nursing services grew significantly during the pandemic, and it is here to stay. Nurses must develop solutions to promote the use of technology.
There are some telehealth limitations with patient education, such as communicating over a camera. Healthcare professionals and telehealth nurses need to become comfortable with the technology and practice telehealth communication skills.
Telehealth can increase access to care and patient education. Telehealth offers the opportunity to provide health screenings, patient education, and discuss the importance of vaccinations.
Kriebel-Gasparro is excited by the option to expand patient care to greater geographic areas. She also likes how technology can be used for various aspects of patient care such as Medicare assessments and psychiatry.
“One of the benefits of telehealth is the education on health, diseases, and screenings that nurses can provide,” she says.
Manage Expectations for Change
Clinical nurses work in a high-stress environment, and many have experienced nurse burnout. Burnout is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion. It’s often triggered by long hours caring for patients with poor outcomes, a perceived lack of control, and not enough support. The consequences of burnout include a stressed immune system, overwhelming fatigue, and anxiety.
One way to deal with nurse burnout is to manage your expectations for patient outcomes. It’s vital to educate your patients to motivate them to choose a healthier lifestyle. But Kotte cautions that you can do this without becoming personally involved in your patient’s outcome.
By acknowledging your patient may not be ready to make changes, “we are able to better manage our expectations and ultimately provide the best patient care,” she says.
Provide Educational Content in Various Forms
Every person has a learning style. Your learning style increases the amount of information you can absorb and use in your decision-making.
There are four basic learning styles.