By Roberta Raymond, PhD, RN, CNE
Content courtesy of Chamberlain College of Nursing
In many ways, patients are like students in a classroom. Their ability to understand the variables that shape their health is influenced by different life experiences, aptitudes for learning and preferred modalities, and their success depends largely on their ability to retain and recall information.
Patient education is critical to ensuring effective treatment and prevention. Patients who understand health and the variables that affect it can be active partners in their healthcare, and it’s our role as nurses to facilitate their understanding. In fact, a growing body of evidence demonstrates that patients who are more actively involved in their healthcare experience better health outcomes and incur lower healthcare costs.
I previously worked in a doctor’s office, where I saw patients with physical limitations that restricted their understanding of their treatment plan. One patient was hard of hearing and understood her treatment plan only when it was written down. Many of us have had patients with limited reading ability and wondered how we could serve them more appropriately than by providing pages of instructions on their care.
Because patients learn in different ways, nurses must learn to teach in different ways. Some patients may learn better verbally. Others prefer written instructions or creative handouts with diagrams to aid their comprehension of an illness or disease. Whatever the modality, as nurses, we must ensure patient understanding. Otherwise, our job is only half complete.
Becoming teachers for our patients can be challenging, but nurses can equip themselves with the skills and knowledge base to assist all patients through the appropriate learning channels. Chamberlain College of Nursing offers several programs that prepare nurses to provide patient education.
The master of science in nursing family nurse practitioner specialty track is designed with enhanced clinical experiences to prepare nurses for roles in a variety of health settings — such as pediatric primary care and family practice, internal medicine, retail clinics and women’s health — where patient education on health and prevention is an integral part of patient-centered care.
Additionally, Chamberlain’s MSN educator specialty track prepares students to address different learning styles and creative ways to teach. Many of these students work in hospital or school settings where they’re interfacing with patients of all ages and backgrounds, each of whom has a different level of health literacy. Other nurse educator students work in community settings educating the general public on health and wellness.
Patient education fuels a culture of health in our communities, empowering each person to achieve and sustain a healthy lifestyle. Nurses who partner with their patients through health education are making an extraordinary difference in the delivery of care and promoting successful health outcomes with a lasting impact.
Roberta Raymond, PhD, RN, CNE, is assistant professor, MSN degree program at Chamberlain College of Nursing.