5 ways nurses can improve their patient education skills

There's no question that nurses play a major role in health outcomes, which makes it all the more critical that they improve their ability to engage and educate patients.

This is especially important given the healthcare industry's increased focus on hospital discharge planning and chronic disease management, both of which ask patients to play a greater role in their care, Beth Stuckey, R.N., an assistant professor of nursing at American Sentinel University, said in an article from the online nursing degree provider. Furthermore, "patient engagement should not be considered a one-time event, but rather part of an ongoing conversation with your patients to be most effective," she said.

To help nurses engage in this ongoing effort to boost patient education, Stuckey recommends the following strategies:

Speak patients' language: As a rising demand for interpreters has made clear, nurses should not always assume their patients can understand or speak English, Stuckey said, nor should they rely entirely on family members to interpret what they try to teach. Instead, they should employ a professional interpreter.

Cater to the individual: Nurses must address patients as people rather than focus solely on their medical condition, Stuckey said, starting with an assessment of a patient's capacity to learn, which can be affected by medication or the amount of pain they experience. 

Employ the teach-back method: To ensure that patients understand information and instructions, simply ask them to explain back in their own words what they've been taught, Stuckey recommended. Nurses may even want to ask patients to show them a procedure that a nurse has just demonstrated to maximize comprehension.

Capitalize on patient interactions: Any patient encounter is an opportunity to educate, so nurses should "approach teaching in different ways and different times," Stuckey said.

Make it a partnership: Effective engagement treats patients as critical players in the quality of their care, which means a simple list of directions won't cut it, according to Stuckey. Instead, engage them in a conversation that addresses their rights, opinions and concerns. Research has even shown that patients who feel respected by their providers experience fewer medical errors, FierceHealthcare reported.

To learn more:
- read the article

Related Articles:
True patient-centered care needs a personal touch
Hospitals face growing need for medical, language interpreters
To improve healthcare outcomes, empower nurses
Respect: The key to patient safety and preventing medical errors
The link between compassionate care and patient satisfaction
5 ways to involve patients and families in achieving the Triple Aim
What the healthcare worker of the future will look like