Educating patients is one of the pillars of the healthcare sector. Part of providing patient care is informing them what they’re being treated for, what recovery looks like, and ensuring you have your patient’s informed consent to proceed. Patients who are well-informed on what’s to come to make smarter choices, have better healthcare outcomes, and can form a deeper bond with their medical practitioner. As a nurse, you are in a unique position both as a caregiver and leader to look after your patients and ensure they get optimum guidance about their well-being. So how do you do this? Here’s what you need to know:
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Make Sure You Have The Right Credentials to Educate
Educating your patients is a multilayered process. Before you can guide them on what to expect regarding their treatment, you need to have a clear idea yourself. Healthcare procedures and treatments can be confusing. Often you may need help finding the words to explain the prognosis, making it tedious for your patient to follow. As a nurse, your educational qualifications are your biggest asset. If you have clear concepts, know the clinical procedure, and understand the side effects, you can help your patients better.
This is why it is recommended that if you’re going to concern yourself with patient education, you need to obtain at least a master’s degree. If you’re a registered nurse (RN) or have a bachelor’s degree (BSN), that is not enough for you to connect with your patients. Likewise, if you want to educate nurses and facilitate them in working with patients, you also need an advanced degree for this endeavor. Hence, if you’re looking for options, check out online msn degrees and enroll in a program that prepares you for your role as a leader and an educator.
Communicate with the Patient Transparently
As you try to converse with your patient, get to know them first. Every patient has their style of picking up your questions, understanding the information you’re telling them, and comprehending the intricacies of their health. The best way to go about this is to start the conversation by introducing yourself. This allows you to set some familiarity between you and your patient. From there, find out what language your patient prefers talking in, if they speak the native language fluently, or do they need a translator to help them out.
While explaining medical jargon to them, take frequent pauses and cross-check if the patient understands your terms. If you can connect them to resources and online blogs on the health condition you’re discussing, ensure you do that. If your patient has a disability that can hinder their communication, such as weak hearing, poor eyesight, or a learning disability that makes it hard to pick up what you’re saying, then make the necessary accommodation so that you can facilitate their understanding.
These include asking a nurse fluent in ASL to assist you through this conversation with the patient’s consent, arranging for resources that allow the patient to read braille, or involving the patient’s family member in the discussion.
Ask the Patient Questions Before They Get Discharged
As patients gradually prepare to leave your care, you must ensure they understand how to look after themselves. If your patient doesn’t know how to look after themselves, there’s a high chance they may need to get admitted to the hospital or risk a severe infection, especially if they had surgery. It would help if you provided your patients with a detailed description of at-home care. Ensure you provide instructions in both paper and digital form for their convenience.
You can also ask them to repeat the instructions back to you to confirm whether they understood you or not. Their responses can help you determine where your patients may be having difficulty understanding. Furthermore, give them the space to ask their questions, convey their hesitation, and comment on areas of home care they don’t understand. Keeping an open communication channel is the only way patients can benefit from your guidance.
Educate Emerging Nurses
As a nurse leader, you must help future nurses prepare for their role in working with patients. Talking and educating patients is a methodological process. It requires nurses to know their craft, develop meaningful connections with their patients, and learn the art of communication. You can help your fellow nurses in this department. Use your experience and industry knowledge to guide them on what it takes to communicate with patients—emphasis on concepts like tone, enunciation, and body language.
You should also illustrate how specific medical terms can confuse patients, and how to help them differentiate between diagnoses and common layperson words they can use. Ensure you also walk nurses through medical biases and how they should be avoided. Racism, stereotypes, and prejudices can tarnish the sanctity of the healthcare sector. While educating patients, nurses should be clearly instructed to avoid biases that can spread misconceptions, and instead of educating the patient, they may end up making them feel unwelcomed, which is not only extraordinarily unprofessional but also highly unethical.
Choose the Right Time
When you choose to speak to a patient, choose a time when they are undistracted, can pay attention to what you are saying, and focus on your instructions. Hospitals are busy places. Nurses are continuously doing their rounds; doctors are checking up on their patients, while other healthcare staff is maintaining the patient’s health and hygiene. This can make it hard for you to converse with your patient without interruption.
If you talk to them during a chaotic day, the patient may not know what you are saying. Hence, visit them when their room is quiet, preferably after mealtime. You should also ensure that you see your patient after their mandatory checkups, further reducing distractions. This gives you the space to think, carefully gauge your words and approach your patient to guide them best.
Nurses are the backbone of the healthcare sector. One of the most integral jobs they do is to educate patients and help them better understand their health. However, educating patients is a tough job requiring empathy, knowledge, and respect, which is why nurses need to get trained for the job. This includes ensuring they are educated enough, teaching them the right words, and encouraging them to be more forthcoming with their patients. As a nurse, the industry knowledge you learn will benefit a new generation of nurses and prepare them for their role as patient educators. Therefore, don’t undermine the significance of your responsibility.