For current materials, establish regular review

Be prepared for unexpected changes

On any given day, there are 1,000 titles on the revision list for written educational materials, and it is the job of the patient education department to keep up with it, says Diane Moyer, BSN, MS, RN, associate director of patient education at The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus.

"Our policy is to review documents every three years for revisions," Moyer says.

A tracking tool in the inventory database identifies revision dates. Generally a set of titles is pulled each quarter and assigned for review to the appropriate clinician. For example, dietary handouts would go to the dietitian representative on the patient education committee, who might perform the review or ask another dietitian to complete it. The feedback from the review is incorporated into the new document.

In addition to reviewing documents by dates, those who oversee patient education inventory must be ready to update documents more frequently as policy, rules, or treatments change, says Moyer.

There are many ways to stay abreast of these more frequent changes. At The Ohio State Medical Center, staff in the patient education department and clinicians throughout the system receive professional publications and make note of changes. For example, clinicians in the Obstetrics Department report updates to state or federal guidelines for maternity and newborn care. "We are very fortunate that our clinicians are willing to work with us to keep the information up-to-date," says Moyer.

At Mount Carmel East in Columbus, OH, Karen Guthrie, RN, MS, manager of community and patient education, participates in the meetings of the Patient Care Council, nursing directors, and clinical educators. "This keeps me in the loop on new technology or changes in policies, procedures, or clinical focus, Guthrie says. "I also repeatedly encourage clinicians to contact me with any changes, and they do let me know when a handout needs updating."

Follow the evidence

Although Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, has decentralized patient education, staff members in all departments know that it is the institution's policy that teaching materials are evidence-based. Therefore when the evidence changes, materials must be updated, says Rose Healy, RN, MS, CNS, a diabetes clinical nurse specialist and co-chair of the Patient Education Committee.

Members of the Clinical Practice Committee will take selected clinical topics and review the evidence, existing policy, and guidelines and update them. As part of the process, they develop the patient and family education materials that reflect the current evidence, adds Laurie Reyen, RN, MN, CNS, a nutrition clinical nurse specialist at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and co-chair of the Patient Education Committee.

With an online inventory, updates can be done fairly quickly, and accuracy can be maintained. When print versions are kept on units, updating is more of a challenge, says Guthrie.

In-house booklets are printed in large quantities as a cost savings. Therefore a handout is inserted if information needs to be added, and on occasion, a high quality "sticker" is placed over a section of text with updated information. This process is time-consuming for volunteers.

When updated versions of commercial materials are ordered, the two coordinators in the patient education department replace the outdated versions on the units and recycle them. However, there is the potential that outdated versions will remain on a clinical unit.

"I always keep an eye out for outdated materials when I am in the clinical areas. I also send out to all leaders and educators a quarterly patient education resources update, which includes a listing of revised and new materials," says Guthrie.