Reader Question: Educational resources they can’t refuse

Provide easy access along with inventory list

Question: "How do you alert staff across the continuum of care to the patient education resources your health care facility has available and, more importantly, how do you get them to use those resources? What problems have you had in the past with lack of use, and what specifically have you done to overcome those problems? What problems are you now having in getting staff to make use of the resources available and what are you doing to address them?"

Answer: Like many health care facilities, Hamot Medical Center in Erie, PA, is in the process of placing its patient education materials on-line so staff will have easy access to it via an intranet site. This should make it easier for staff in all patient areas to access materials and ensure that the most current copy is in use. Also, the use of the intranet should provide savings in costs related to copying, storage, and distribution, says Barbara Magee, BSN, RN, patient education coordinator.

"In the past, we listed our educational materials on the computer system and placed copies of appropriate topics in hanging files on patient education carts in each department," explains Magee. However, the cart has proven to be inconvenient. When staff members need materials for teaching, the cart is often down the hall or in the conference room; they don’t take the time to go find it. If they do take the time, in their haste, materials often are scattered and misplaced.

In addition, each time patient education materials are revised, the new editions must be added to the cart and the old copies removed. Many outpatient areas only have room for a small selection of materials because of limited storage space.

While staff aren’t able to download patient education materials from the intranet at Southeast Missouri Hospital in Cape Girardeau, they can access a database that lists all educational resources, including booklets, videos, and hospital-produced handouts. Staff learn about new materials approved for use from their department’s patient education committee representative. Each department keeps an inventory of the approved materials they routinely use. "We feel accessibility to materials is the key to staff utilization," explains Gwen Thoma, EdD, RN, CNA, director of educational services.

To increase use of educational materials, chart audits are conducted twice a year during patient education committee meetings. "This gives the group a better realization of underutilization and makes them aware of the materials they might have used," says Thoma.

The learning center, which is part of the staff and patient education department at The Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, provides a centralized location for patient and family educational resources in all clinical areas. To make sure staff are aware of these resources, a patient education catalog is issued continuumwide yearly and also posted on the intranet, says Clarissa Mercer, RN, patient education coordinator. Educational resources and their access during and after learning center hours are also discussed at monthly nursing orientation and leadership meetings. Reminders about available resources are periodically sent to leadership such as directors, assistant directors, and department-based educators.

"We try to encourage staff use of the resources by accepting telephone and e-mail material requests and delivering materials to patient care areas when time permits," says Mercer. In addition, the department selects educational materials to support the institutions clinical pathways and develops population appropriate materials.

A Health Resource Center, which is open to the public, further supports the educational efforts of the staff by providing books, videos, audio tapes, journals, and reviewed web links directly to patients and their families. A new program, Library on Wheels, will bring resource materials directly into inpatient areas, such as the intensive care waiting room, the birthing center, and the cancer floor, says Mercer.


For more information about alerting staff to educational resources and increasing use, contact:

  • Barbara Magee, BSN, RN, Patient Education Coordinator, Hamot Medical Center, 201 State St., Erie, PA 16550. Telephone: (814) 877-2680. E-mail:
  • Clarissa Mercer, RN, Patient Education Coordinator, The Medical Center of Central Georgia, 777 Hemlock St., Macon, GA 31201. Telephone: (912) 633-1123. E-mail:
  • Gwen Thoma, EdD, RN, CNA, Director of Educational Services, Southeast Missouri Hospital. Telephone: (573) 651-5810. E-mail: