Making sure that patients can truly understand what you teach is perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of nursing. For this reason, it is best to ensure that patients get as much out of a patient education session as possible.
The Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine published an article that says patients recall less than half of what is taught to them - your challenge is to make this a thing of the past by employing strategies that improve what patients retain from patient education.
Here at MyHomecareBiz, we recommend the following best practices for patient teaching recall that works for a huge majority of patients. You may find the concepts below as somewhat familiar, and you may already be doing some of them. The best practices in patient education outlined below are patient teaching tips that would be easy to recall for you as well.
1. Keep it simple.
The majority of adult patients can only read and write at the 2nd grade level; therefore, using medical jargon, big words, and bulky texts for the patient to read is inadvisable. Patient education may be easier for patients who have undergone a similar procedure before or may be a healthcare professional like yourself, but that is usually the exception.
2. Put it in writing.
Some patients would volunteer what teaching style works for them. They can tell you whether they are tactile, visual, or more of the listener type of learner. You can observe this for yourself as you interact with them. Keep in mind that learning is proven to be a multi-sensorial process. There is a better chance of the patient understanding and learning what you’re teaching by involving several vehicles of communication for teaching the concept(s) that the patient needs to learn.
As a general rule, a video is more effective than an audio recording and an audio recording is more effective than a pamphlet (unless the patient has a hearing impediment). Some patients would prefer to see a live demonstration and some would prefer watching an audiovisual. It is seldom the case that a patient would rather read a book or pamphlet for some information if given the option of an audiovisual presentation or a live demonstration; however, most patients would need something to refer back to after you’ve left. This is why something like a short note with the key concepts written in bullet form is an invaluable patient teaching tool that you can use to help improve patient recall.
3. Visuals & demonstrations work best.
The majority of patient teaching occurs as a one-on-one patient and nurse interaction. With this in mind, using some visual aids, with you talking to the patient and changing your pace depending on how the patient is responding to your teaching is a recommended patient teaching approach.
For teaching a group of patients, a video recording might be your best option, with you present in the room to answer any questions that may arise and to clarify anything which may not be clear from the video.
Some things are just easier to grasp in demonstration form. Take for instance teaching a patient about the proper way to use a cane. That’s something that can be taught in about 5 minutes or less via live demonstration but would take a full page of text (and a lot of imagination) to describe and convey.
4. Teach when the patient is receptive.
Learning is an individual process and best results come from communicating the information to be learned at the right time. If the patient is in pain, or is very emotional, then the patient is just too distracted to fully grasp what you’re teaching.
You may initiate and implement teaching when you are providing patient care, such as when you’re changing some dressings or changing an IV so as not to take time away from performing your other duties.
5. Ask the patient to demonstrate teaching at every visit.
No matter how eager the patient looked like while listening to you and/or watching you, the best way to assess whether you’ve communicated what you’ve been teaching effectively is to have the patient repeat it back to you. This would also allow you to observe for and correct any misunderstood concepts and mistakes promptly.
Asking for a demonstration after every visit helps you to assess if the patient is retaining your teachings accurately and promotes patient mastery.
Remember, the core principles for patient teaching is for it to be uncomplicated, direct to the point, easy to understand (no jargon), and can be learned in as little time as possible.