Patient education is one of the most important aspects of nursing care. It builds patients’ self-esteem, self-awareness, sense of responsibility, and provides them with effective coping mechanisms. Furthermore, it reduces hospital readmission rates, healthcare costs, and mortality and morbidity.
Nurses have to assess patients’ barriers, readiness, and knowledge level before creating care plans and evaluate outcomes continuously. Yet, sometimes we come across situations where teaching becomes tricky. It may be because patients are intimidated by the unfamiliarity of the hospital environment or confusing medical jargon, which can make the learning process tougher to manage.
School was tough growing up for me. I was not your A student. I struggled with a lot, simply because I had a hard time understanding the materials. As I got older and went to nursing school, I discovered more effective ways of learning the materials. One way was relating a concept to an event or certain aspect of my life. I now use this method when communicating to patients.
I was taking care of a newly diagnosed type 2 diabetic on the telemetry floor. It was discharge day when I took care of him, and he had been through the diabetic teaching protocol. Yet, I could sense that he was a little unsure of the whole concept of the disease process. I asked him what he did for a living, and he told me he was a truck driver. Perfect! I told him to pretend that his 18-wheeler had a 4-cylinder engine (which is not sufficient to power an 18 wheeler). I told him that his pancreas was like a 4-cylinder engine inside his body: It could not supply enough insulin to keep his blood sugar under control. He needed to lose weight, eat right, exercise, and take his medications in order to control blood sugar. He gave me a smile, nodded his head, and thanked me for explaining the concept in a way he could understand.
Patient education requires critical thinking. Nurses are no longer simply responsible for giving out medications, communicating with physicians or other healthcare personnel, and coordinating care for patients. We now have a crucial role in ensuring that patients are able to independently manage their disease. Nurses need to be patient, recognize teachable moments, and use basic principles to truly impact not only the quality of life for patients, but also to empower the nursing profession.
Chiqui Raveloski is a Filipino nurse practicing in the USA. She currently works as an ER Nurse Case Manager while still doing bedside nursing in a telemetry unit. She blogs about her Filipino culture, personal nursing experiences, and life as a type 1 diabetic for 40+ years at www.bahalananurseblog.com.