Patient teaching: Our podium is often a stretcher.

Patient teaching:  Our podium is often a stretcher.


My mom is a retired teacher.  I remember having to go to school in late summer with her so that she could set up her classroom.

I loved the anticipation of it all…the fresh chalk, creating bulletin boards, and the new books.

It inspired a love of learning, which serves me well to this day.   I admired her  talent for successfully meeting the challenges of educating all of her students, especially those who needed guidance the most.

I never thought that I would face similar challenges in choosing a career path in surgery.   We have to make sure patients know how to care for themselves, seek help in an emergency, who to contact after discharge, what medications to take… whatever it takes to care for themselves.

The result is that our staff can be tied up with a patient  as they answer questions or repeat instructions.  Despite all of our best teaching efforts, we may later hear that the patient did not understand something we thought was communicated.

How can we teach our patients effectively and efficiently?

We can teach them pre-operatively.   You may think you don’t have the resources, and you already talking to the patient to assess them for the procedure.  However, if you consider the time in takes in PACU, it may make sense to make it part of the pre-op call or visit, or at time of admit when the caregiver is present.

We can e-mail  instructions to the patient.  They can respond with an acknowlegement and ask questions at that time.  They can provide to their caregiver for review as well.

We can provide the instructions to the physician practice to give to the patient.  They may be giving the patient a procedure packet anyway, and it would allow the patient to review at their convenience.  The practice staff is probably already fielding questions for you, so it may be a useful tool they can reference.  If the practice is one that you would like to see more cases from, providing the tool may allow for a marketing opportunity.

If your facility has patient’s who need translation routinely,  your instructions can be printed in that language.  You may have an interpreter on the phone or in facility with the patient, but may need instructions for reference later.

Schedule a meeting with the staff for review.  Your current forms may not include something they are routinely verbalizing, or may include outdated information.  Include checkboxes if the directions are specific  to a physician or procedure so the nurse doesn’t have to write it out each time.  The better the written instructions, the more efficient the process.

No matter how you teach your patients, verify that they understand, and get a signature indicating understanding.  It’s a necessary step in our world.

If you decide to make changes to your current teaching plan, make it a quality study.  You can use your patient satisfaction survey to measure  your goals. The outcome is win/win.  Your nurses are more effective in their teaching, and your patients are better informed.






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