07.01 Giving the Best Patient Education

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Included In This Lesson



  1. Patient education
    1. Bridge the gap
      1. Knowledge vs. need to know
      2. Provides options and resources
    2. Improves compliance
      1. Better outcomes
      2. Increases accountability
    3. Avoid medical jargon
    4. Teach in small “doses”
    5. Teach on 4th grade reading level
  2. Providing education
    1. Prioritize educational needs
      1. What do they know?
        1. Health literacy
          1. Capacity to learn
          2. Make decisions
      2. Identify learning style
        1. VARK
          1. Visual
          2. Auditory
          3. Reading/writing
          4. Kinesthetic
      3. Identify barriers
        1. Physical impairment
        2. Mental impairment
        3. Learning disabilities
        4. Cultural considerations
        5. Readiness to learn
        6. Support system
    2. Choosing appropriate education
      1. Specific patient concerns
      2. Details vs Basic information
      3. Include family/caregiver
    3. Education formats
      1. One on one training
      2. Demonstration
      3. Brochures
      4. PowerPoint
      5. Models
  3. Evaluating education
    1. Teach back method
      1. Ask patient to explain
        1. In their own words
        2. Clarify any misunderstanding
        3. Reassess
      2. Tests teacher ability
        1. Not patient knowledge
      3. Allows for clarification
      4. Avoids close ended answers
    2. Return demonstration
      1. Patient shows what they learned
      2. Works for new skills
      3. Patient or family member


Today we’re going to be talking about how to give the best patient education.

Before we provide patient education, it’s important to know the reason we are providing it. Patient education helps us bridge the gap between the patient’s current knowledge of their situation versus what they need to know about their situation. It allows us as healthcare professionals to provide options and resources to each patient and their family members to further assist them in the decision-making process. This improves compliance which yields better outcomes, and it also holds patients accountable for their own health. When giving patient education, it’s important to avoid medical jargon. It’s easy to turn off when someone is throwing words you don’t understand at you. For this reason, you should try to educate patients and families on a 4th grade reading level in small amounts. This is to minimize confusion and teaching in doses allows you to gauge exactly how much is understood by taking breaks in between sections of information.

When preparing to educate a patient, prioritizing his or her needs is a must. What they know is the first thing we need to address. We want to know what their capacity to learn and make decisions about their health looks like. We also want to know how they learn best. The four main learning styles are visual, auditory, reading/writing, and kinesthetic. Understanding which way the patient learns makes the process way easier and less painful. We need to know their barriers to learning new information. Mental and physical impairments are the more obvious barriers, but there are also cultural considerations, the presence or absence of a support system, and most importantly, are they even ready or willing to learn what you are attempting to teach.

We’ve performed a needs analysis of sorts. Now we have to decide WHAT to teach. Find out what the patient’s specific concerns are and whether or not they do better with lots of details or just the basics. FYI, sometimes it’s best to cut to the chase, for attention purposes. Also, find out whether or not your patient wants a family member or caregiver present for support. Maybe it’s not the patient at all who is going to be using the information provided.

When we are talking about education there’s more to it than what you might consider “formal” teaching. Sometimes we need to get creative. Base your teaching on everything we’ve already discussed in this lesson. Once you’ve gathered all the information, you can choose one of these methods, or some combination of them. Whatever is going to fit the needs of your patient, do it. Now not everything we’ve discussed has to be in a specific order or all at the same time.  Remember, there’s always more than one way to skin a cat!

There are two ways to determine whether or not you’ve hit the mark with the education you’ve provided. You can choose to use them both if the situation allows, or you can pick one. Let’s explore these a little further.

The teach back method is the time for the person receiving the education to explain what you said in their own words. We do this not really as a test of their knowledge, but to test your ability to provide information clearly and accurately. They are telling you what they understood. Be sure to take the time to clear up anything they got wrong and ask them to repeat it again. If they still don’t get it, you may need to evaluate or change the teaching method. This method is great because it allows for clarification and avoids the typical yes or no answers because you’re not asking those close ended questions. What does that do? Understanding increases compliance!

Return demonstration may not always be possible, but when it is, definitely use it. Particularly if you are using demonstration as a teaching method. This is the time for the patient to show you what they learned. We use this for new skills like ostomy care or glucose testing; things that require hands on assistance. Again, this can be a patient or family member, or it can be for everyone involved. Whoever is performing the specific care should do this.

We love you guys! Go out and be your best self today! And as always, Happy Nursing!