The conference “Health Literacy: Partnering for Patient-Centered Care” was held Oct. 27 at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine’s Hofstra University Club in Hempstead, N.Y. Sponsored by the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Health Literacy, the program focused on sharing and disseminating evidence-based health literacy research, educational strategies and tools that promote patient-centered care.
Two nurses were part of the planning committee — Terri Ann Parnell, RN, DNP, associate chief diversity and inclusion officer, and Joanne Turnier, RN, MS, ACNS-BC, health literacy program manager, both of the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Health Literacy. The conference provided segments on health literacy as it relates to patient experiences, the formation of community partnerships and health literacy’s importance to medical education. Presenters included Richard Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS, former U.S. surgeon general and distinguished professor at the University of Arizona; Martin Murphy, executive director of the Long Island-Regional Adult Education Network; Lawrence Smith, MD, MACP, dean of Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine and physician-in-chief at North Shore-LIJ Health System; and literacy advocate Toni Cordell, who provided a patient’s perspective of health literacy.Joanne Turnier, RN
Parnell also presented “Integrating Health Literacy: A Tapestry for Patient-Centered Care,” which provided a number of key points from the program. She said it is the responsibility of health professionals to raise awareness, educate and encourage patients to speak up and understand education is a two-way street. According to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy, just 12% of adults have proficiency in health literacy. The biggest challenges are language differences, cultural differences and low literacy rates.
Nurses can use “teachable moments” to help improve health literacy, Parnell said. Using a snippet from the TV show “House,” Parnell illustrated how important health literacy is to our health. In the clip, a female patient complains to character Gregory House, MD, that her inhaler is not working and is adamant he do something. When he asks her to demonstrate its use, she sprays the medicine on her neck as one would when applying perfume. “Health literacy is an essential component of achieving positive patient outcomes,” she said.Conference attendees include, from left, Elizabeth Iciano, RN, North Shore University Hospital, Manhasset, N.Y.; Jenna Cantor, Beth Israel Medical Center; and Lynn Farrell, North Shore-LIJ Home Care Network.
To conclude the program, Turnier conducted a case presentation roundtable during which she presented before and after presurgical testing sheets to demonstrate how effective simple changes to written forms such as more white space and using bulleted points can be to health literacy. Turnier also suggested using pictures and illustrations if applicable and incorporating aspects of the physical environment whenever possible.
“The environment we provide is just as important as the written information itself,” she said. “Look at your processes and the way you do things, and create your document around that.”