4 Ways RNs Can Improve Patient Education

Patient educationBy Cynthia Iñe, MS, FNP-C, Contributor

Patient education is a critical component of a registered nurse’s role as a provider. When with their patients, nurses should be prepared to seize any moment for patient teaching that may arise. 

The knowledge that the registered nurse can give to their patients can help in decision-making processes as well as impart a positive change in the patient’s health.

[BROWSE thousands of current travel nursing jobs across the U.S.] Check out 4 ways you can improve patient education below.

1. Assess

The nurse should assess several conditions prior to patient education:

  • Readiness: Is the patient ready to learn? Patients who do not exhibit the readiness to learn will find it hard to be receptive to any teaching. When the willingness to learn is present, the nurse can expect teaching efforts to be received well.
  • Educational level: During this assessment, the nurse should also consider the patient’s educational level to provide education the patient understands.
  • Learning Style: There are different learning styles to consider when delivering patient education (i.e. visual, verbal, physical, etc.). Nurses should learn how to accommodate these learning styles during patient education. Take into consideration that the patient might also learn from a combination of styles.
  • Learning Environment: Is the environment conducive for learning? Are there any distractions? Loud noises? Assessment of the environment will also make sure that patient teaching can be performed in an area that is free from distractions.
  • Support System: Does the patient have any family or friends that can be present during the teaching? These are people that can offer the patient any needed encouragement, assistance, or care. So, if possible, include them.

2. Write Instructions

Sometimes it is difficult for patients to remember everything taught during the encounter with the nurse. The registered nurse should remember this and provide handouts applicable to the situation. 

Go over this material with the patient. A hard copy of the education materials will serve as a reference for your patients when they are not with you.

[RELATED: 5 Ways RNs Can Improve Patient Safety]

3. Gauge Understanding

It is very important to make sure that any patient teaching provided can be taught back by the patient. For example, if the teaching involves performing a skill, demonstrate the skill while verbalizing the steps. 

Afterwards, ask the patient to return the demonstration. The nurse can ask the patient to “teach back” or “show me” to assess understanding. Use this time to correct the patient and offer feedback. Have patience with this process and try different ways to convey the education.

4. Ask Questions

Always give the patient the chance to ask questions about patient education. This provides an opportunity for the nurse to assess the patient’s learning and offer any clarifications.

If the patient does not readily ask any questions, ask if the patient has any. Make sure the patient feels comfortable asking questions and knows that there is no such thing as a silly question. The patient teaching process should be a collaborative one.

Registered nurses should take these tips and individualize them to the type of patient education they are giving and the setting in which they are performing. 

Nurses performing patient education have the ability to affect the outcomes of a patient’s health. This responsibility can lead to many appreciative patients and passionate nurses. With these four tips in mind, you are well on your way to having effective patient education.

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