A Guide to Patient Teaching and Education in Nursing

A nurse plays several roles in her position. She is a healer, a listener, a collaborator, a researcher, and more. Perhaps one of the greatest, yet most overlooked, role that a nurse plays in her organization is that of educator. While many nurses leave nursing practice to become an educator in an official capacity at a university or college, most nurses must perform their educational duties in the facility where they work. Their primary students? The patients!

Indeed, the need for teaching patients about their diagnoses and management of them is extremely important. Here are a few strategies and tips for educating patients as a nurse.

  1. Focus on the Necessary

When a patient receives a diagnosis or in some form needs to be educated on what is going on with them, they can become quickly overwhelmed. For this reason, it’s important to focus only on what is necessary for them to know. They most likely will not need to understand the mechanics of the disease, or how the medication works to combat it. Instead, teach them what they absolutely need to know to cope with the diagnosis.

  1. Timing is Everything

Don’t forget that your patients are in the hospital or clinic because they have to be, not because they really choose to be. They will likely be worried, afraid, or in pain. If they have just received a diagnosis, give them time to cope with it. Often, this kind of news needs time to sink in and become real. Inundating them with information about the diagnosis and how to deal with it before they have time to really acknowledge it could prevent them from being able to listen to you. Give them enough time to digest the news before trying to teach them anything.

  1. Limit Interruptions

It can be difficult to find a suitable time to teach a patient, and it’s even more important to find a time when you won’t be interrupted. You’ll likely have a lot of important information or instruction to give, and it might be difficult for the patient to remember everything if there are constant disruptions or pauses. Avoid mealtime as best as you can, even though it seems like a good time. You should also avoid visiting hours since the patient will probably benefit from interacting with friends and family.

  1. Keep It Simple

Having gone to nursing school and been in practice for a while, you know all the medical lingo and terms for diseases and management. However, don’t forget that your patient has not done all those things. As a result, it’s important to consider the level of education of the patient. This will help you determine how much medical jargon to use when discussing things with them. For the most part, you should keep the terminology as simple as possible. Be careful with any educational reading material you might want to give the patient, since they may not be literate or able to understand complex terminology.

  1. Be Considerate of Finances

With such a wealth of resources in the medical world, there is bound to be something to help your patients deal with and understand their diagnosis. However, many of these resources can be incredibly expensive and may not be financially feasible for the patient. When you have these educational discussions with your patients, be mindful of their finances and budgetary restraints. If you are recommending a clinic for rehabilitation, a medical device, or a medication, make sure to have several options that allow your patient to make the best financial decision for their health.

  1. Document Everything

When you are teaching a patient a new skill or information, make sure to document what you have taught them and when. This will help the incoming nurse who is taking over for you at the end of your shift know where to start and what to cover. The goal is to minimize any confusion or delay in teaching. You should also note how well the patient has grasped the concept or if it needs to be reinforced.

Ultimately, your goal as a nurse educator is to help patients understand their diagnosis and have the skills and management techniques to cope. By following the above strategies, you can ensure that your patients will be able to be somewhat self-sufficient when it comes to their care.