Patient education is a vital component to quality nursing care. Understanding an illness, injury or chronic disease and what to expect are essential to a patient's recovery and rehabilitation. Through patient education, nurses will help promote wellness and give patients the tools they need to take responsibility for their own health status and prevent long-term complications.
As we move deeper into a wellness model of health care delivery, we know that the education of a patient is central to the success of this model. By giving the patient information and directions for follow up care, we begin the process of promoting wellness and healthy lifestyles.
Nutrition, exercise, adequate sleep and proper use of medication and medical treatments all have to work together to promote wellness and prevent complications. The patient has to understand their illness or injury in order to make the process successful.
Health Care Illiteracy
One key point is that more than 50 percent of the population may be health care illiterate, which means that they may have no concept of health care. They may be unsure of when it is best to seek medical attention, how to access it and how the system works. Those members of the population may need to be given very basic information as a foundation, and all patient teaching would need to build on this.
Once patients understand the symptoms of their illness or injury and what constitutes normal progress and what needs to be reported, they can begin to take responsibility for their own health status. They will also learn how and when to access medical care and be less likely to ignore signs of impending complications.
Nurses are responsible for the vast majority of patient education. Physicians spend their time assessing and diagnosing. Nurses who seek higher levels of education, such as a BSN and beyond, will be better prepared to utilize critical thinking skills and evidence-based practice to explore the patient's needs and provide better patient teaching and care.
Educating patients effectively reaches far beyond handing the patient a brochure or pamphlet to read and expecting him or her to understand anything it says. Many patients are visual learners, and they need to see something. They need to have a process demonstrated, and they need to practice demonstrating it back to the nurse.
Videos and photographs help patients better remember and grasp concepts and procedures, more so than written instructions. Asking the patient to explain something back in words, along with actions, provides validation of his or her understanding and clues as to what needs to be reinforced.
Patient education can be one of the most challenging and rewarding aspects of nursing.
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