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In this lesson, we are going to take a look at patient education, the responsibilities of the nurse, and ways patients learn.
What we can do depends on our licensure, and that goes for patient education as well.
As registered nurse, the RN does a few things. They evaluate what kind of teaching the patient needs (called a needs assessment) which identifies gaps, how ready or eager they are to learn. They also perform initial patient teaching and they also adjust the plan of care as needed. An example of this would be a new ileostomy for a patient. There are lots of opportunities for education here, but they need to be performed by the RN.
The LPN on the other hand works to help the RN in education. They continually provide ongoing education and reinforce teaching. If they notice that the patient requires new teaching, they’ll report this finding to the RN, who will educate the patient at that point.
So when we begin to educate our patients, one thing we should often ask them is “how do you best learn?” We want to be efficient in our care, which includes teaching, so starting with the method that works best for them is ideal.
Patients that learn with an auditory style means that they learn by listening. You can educate them just by speaking to them.
Some patients like to learn through maybe acting out a teaching, using their hands, or touching a model. This is the kinesthetic learning style.
Visual/Verbal learning is through pamphlets. Some patients learn best through reading information versus other methods.
Visual/Nonverbal learners use pictures to better understand teaching. So drawing a photo of an eye to explain glaucoma may be better for them than explaining the process to them.
When teaching patients it’s also crucial to identify barriers to their education. Their barriers can be singular, or they can be a combination of the ones we see here.
These are some examples of barriers to learning. So literacy (which is your patient’s ability to read and write), culture or language barriers. If your patient speaks another language than you, be sure to use a translator or interpreter services to make sure that your teaching is correct. Sometimes our patients have visual or hearing deficits, so we need to accommodate that. Or sometimes they’re just too sick to learn. Be sure to follow up and look for more opportune times to teach them.
So once we’ve determined their learning style and addressed any barriers to learning, we need to find out WHAT they need to know.
You start this process by asking them what they understand about their diagnosis, the prognosis of the illness, any restrictions they may have. Ask them what they know about the medications they’re on or the medications they’ll take (so think side effects and what they’re used for), other therapies they may be engaging in, and when to seek help. Also ask your patient to find out what they think they need to learn.
As you listen to your patient tell you what they understand about their illness, you can help to identify myths or errors and you can fill in the gaps with proper education.
Also, you’ll have the opportunity to find out how ready they actually are to learn about what’s going on with them, and how we can make them better.
Let’s talk about ways to improve learning for the patient.
First, you have the opportunity to use technology. Lots of hospitals have cool ways to do this, so utilize it when you can. Use the patient’s learning style and stimulate interests. Adults are often a little more challenging because they have to feel like they have to have something in it for them. So make sure you get them interested in what you have to say. Consider strengths and limitations like literacy or speaking deficits. Also include your patient’s family or support system as a means to help reinforce teaching and encouragement.
Doing these things will help to make sure your teaching is successful. Now, let’s look practically at some actual teaching methods.
One way to teach your patient is with written information like handouts or pamphlets. Have them read the information and then follow up, being sure to clear up any info that’s confusing or needs to be simplified. Just know that the Joint Commission requires all written patient education to be at a 5th grade reading level or below.
You can also present to groups or have discussions in classes about health education, this happens a lot in the community. You can also demonstrate education to your patient or to groups, like using a walker or crutches. You can then watch them to make sure they understand how to use the device and correct them if they need it.
A really great method of teaching is called the “teach back” method. This is where you explain and demonstrate a teaching point to a patient, and then have them turn around and teach it back to you or to a family member.
The nursing concepts involved in today’s lesson are patient education, health promotion and patient centered care.
So let’s recap:
It’s important to remember the roles you have. RNs provide new teaching and LPNs reinforce teaching.
Remember patients learn differently, so make sure that you cater to their learning style.
Identify barriers to teaching early, so that you can find other ways to teach and get them to learn it.
If you need to use multiple teaching methods, do so. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to make it work.
Remember to teach your patient every time you see them, every shift and then reinforce the teaching to make it stick!
Make sure you check out all the resources attached to this lesson. Now, go out and be your best selves today. And, as always, happy nursing!!