No Time to Teach? The Role of Patient Education in NursingMost nurses recognize the importance of patient education but are frustrated by the lack of time and resources to support it. They know that the limited time they have with patients can restore health to some degree. However, the patient and family are ultimately responsible for continuing the gains and maintaining health through self-care.

Nurses often respond to the pressure by saying they have “no time to teach” and then ask, “How can I get more time to teach?” In these tight economic times, the response is a frustrating “no money, no staff, no time.”

Reframe the Question

However, if we change the question to “how can I most effectively and efficiently teach in the time I have?,” the whole world opens up. Nursing research offers much insight into what works, what doesn’t work, and how to best invest your resources to improve health outcomes.

Technology and Patient Education in Nursing

As our world changes, the methods available to teach patients and families expand. We’ve added much to our standard handouts, booklets, and group classes in recent years. For example: recorded information by telephone, telephone helplines, videos, podcasts, websites, text messaging, webinars, chronic disease management programs, and social networking. What works? What doesn't work?

Modern Challenges

As our world population grows and moves, we find we are caring for populations that are much less homogeneous than in the past. Our patients are now from other cultures, other countries, and they speak other languages. Their underlying beliefs about health, illness, and healthcare are not always the same as ours. How do we provide nursing care and education in a culturally competent environment?

Socio-economic pressures also pose challenges. Some of our patients may have grown up in poverty, others may be new to it because of life circumstances. Our patients may not have reliable access to food, transportation, shelter, or medicine. They may not have a home with electricity or running water. What do we teach them? How do we change our expectations to meet their realities?

Nurses and other healthcare providers are also increasing awareness of the impact of poor health literacy on health outcomes. Some of our patients can’t read at all, some can’t read well, some don’t have the background in biology and science to understand what we are saying. Many of the self-care protocols we send home with patients are complex and demand good organizational skills. How can we help them function and thrive?

Your Challenges

What are your personal teaching challenges? What frustrates you most? Describe your situation in a comment below.

By sharing your frustrations, you will discover that you are not alone. Future columns may address your issues. Together we can explore the evidence and find how you can most effectively and efficiently utilize patient education in nursing with the time you have.