Creating a More Just and Merciful World
How Nurses Improve Patient Education
Doctors are not the only ones educating patients. Nurses also help patients make informed and empowered choices about their health.
Patient education includes information about conditions, treatments and how to navigate the healthcare system. The primary goal of educational efforts is to inspire patients to take control of their care.
Nurses are often the first care providers who patients see. The direct, one-on-one contact they have with patients put them in positions to build trust and respect. Nurses today are taking on the increasingly important responsibility of improving patient engagement and health outcomes through education.
Importance of Patient Education
The health care industry has become more patient-centric. Patients who are knowledgeable about their care and treatment options are able to make better decisions.
Health literacy is now a major area of focus within health care. It is part of the Healthy People 2030 initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. A goal of the initiative is to improve people’s well-being by eliminating health disparities, achieving health equity and increasing health literacy. The belief is that access to easy-to-understand information encourages patients to be proactive in maintaining their health.
A challenge for health literacy efforts is information that is too complex or not relevant to individual needs, according to research. Nurses and other health care professionals must be mindful of this challenge and develop communication techniques to overcome it. They can assess patients to find out the best way to communicate with them. Health communications experts say instruction using common words and phrases often helps. Multimedia, including audio and visual content, can also be of assistance.
By building rapport with patients, nurses can stay in touch with their needs and preferences. They can adjust teaching strategies as necessary.
When it comes to patient education, patients and providers are partners in care. A conversation that begins in the doctor’s office can go a long way in a patient’s healthcare journey. Education gives patients broader views of their care options and the steps they need to take to live healthier lives. Therefore, nurses perform a critical role in boosting the knowledge and confidence patients need even after they leave the hospital.
Teaching patients is a priority within health care, but nurses must balance several responsibilities. Multitasking is critical in nursing. How can nurses fit patient education into their already busy schedules?
Strategies for Nurses
Some ways nurses can improve patient education, according to the website NurseJournal.org, include:
- Keep it simple. Avoid using complicated medical terminology and break down information so that it is easier for patients to understand.
- Consider a patient’s learning style and communication barriers. Learning styles vary, so ask patients how they prefer to learn. Communication barriers might include sight and hearing impairments or cognitive issues. Barriers can be overcome with planning, compassion and patience.
- Write down important information. Nurses can write detailed instructions for patients to reference later.
- Continuously educate patients. Provide ongoing education to keep patients informed and motivated.
- Use technology. Digital tools and platforms make educational resources more accessible and customizable.
Education also leads to success for nurses themselves. Carlow University offers a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program that equips nurses with the skills they need to deliver care and information in a compassionate and proficient manner. This nursing program prepares nurses to integrate clinical experience, professional perspectives and patient-centered preferences into a plan of care.