Nursing Tips for Educating Patients on Complex Medical Conditions
By Laure Justice, Contributor
Patients need to understand and retain the medical
information you share with them. However, when you're educating patients about
complex medical conditions, you can't always be certain the patient
understands. Receiving medical news is stressful, and medical terminology can
Use these tips from our medical experts to help guide you
through the right and wrong way to educate your patients.
Tips on Educating Patients Through Technology
According to Stephen R. Holtzman, MD and co-founder of The Holvan Group,
patients don't always understand the medical conditions they have or their
treatment plans. Dr. Holtzman suggests having patients take advantage of
technology to help them understand the information and to reduce the time you
spend repeating details.
Dr. Holtzman notes that "mobile apps and informative
videos are now being used by many hospitals and healthcare organizations to
educate patients on comprehension of procedures, risks, benefits, alternatives
and patient aftercare."
When a patient receives medical education
through a cell phone, that patient is more likely to come to medical
appointments on time and prepared.
Videos that provide medical information are
useful because watching the film provides the patient with some time to process
the information before you try to discuss it with them.
The use of technology to aid in patient
education increases patient satisfaction and helps the patient become more
engaged in the treatment process.
1. Make eye contact
Eye contact is an important part of communicating with
patients because it helps you gauge whether your words are being understood.
When you're talking to a patient about a complex medical condition or treatment
plan, Ruth Linden, Ph.D., the founder and president of Treeof Life Health Advocates in San Francisco recommends making strong
eye contact with the patient. This means focusing on the patient and watching
for signs of comprehension rather than focusing any of your attention on an
electronic device or a computer screen.
2. Assess your patient's level of medical
Dr. Linden suggests communicating with your patient to
determine their level of medical literacy. This allows you to adjust your
patient education efforts so your patient can understand. Examples of this
include using layman's terms to speak with patients who get confused by medical
terminology and providing written material that restates the information you're
sharing. Also, make sure you are speaking with the patient in their preferred
language, or find someone who can assist.
RELATED: 4Ways RNs Can Improve Patient Education
3. Cater your teaching approach to each
patient's learning style
Be prepared to provide learning aids to accommodate
patients with different learning styles. For example, some people learn better
when they hear spoken words, while others may learn better from visual cues.
Dr. Linden suggests you should ideally "establish whether your patient has
a preferred learning style — visual or auditory — and tailor your tools
accordingly. Diagrams, pictures, lists and videos can strengthen and reinforce
the information you deliver."
4. Use the teach-back technique
Using the teach-back method is one final tip offered by
Dr. Linden. Here's how and why it works.
After explaining a complex medical condition to a patient,
or to the family members of a patient, make certain they understand the
information you've shared by having them teach it back to you.
Make sure they're putting it in their own words
rather than simply repeating something you said.
If the information is repeated to you
accurately, you can feel certain your words have been understood.
If the information is repeated with
inaccuracies, you have the opportunity to correct the misunderstanding
When you include some advanced learning techniques like
the teach-back method when educating patients about complicated medical conditions,
it helps your patients understand. This helps each patient become an active
participant in their own health care.
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