Collect tools for every learning style

Written handouts not appropriate for everyone

At the University of Washington Medical Center (UWMC) in Seattle, educators ask inpatients how they prefer to learn and document that information on the electronic medical record, when there is no protocol for accommodating the patients' preferences. These actions are futile, members of the Patient and Family Education Committee complain.

The same verbal process of education is used with almost every patient, backed up with written information about the condition or self-care instructions, explains Linda Golley, MA, a committee member and manager of Interpreter Services at UWMC. Often patients say it is difficult to read materials when they are not feeling well, Golley adds. The idea of creating a library of patient education tools, in addition to the printed word, to convey information evolved.

"Our aim is to encourage care team members to acquire teaching aids for their patients who prefer non-reading methods of learning," says Golley.

The patient education committee is researching the tools and plans to create a list that nurse managers and department supervisors can purchase to aid staff with patient education. Information about each item will include the name of the tool, where to get it, what it can be used for, how much it costs, and comments from users.

In addition to a list from which departments can shop, a display case at the patient learning center in the main lobby of the medical center will feature some of the tools. The idea is to provoke staff to think about what they can use in their care area to enhance teaching, says Golley. The list and display case will also help to make staff aware of tools they can access at their facility, such as a medication direction sheet that uses symbols to help patients with low literacy skills take their medications correctly. The sheet was developed in the Interpreter Services Department of the UWMC.

The list also will be posted on the UWMC web site on the Patient and Family Education Services page. (Web: The link to the "Library of Non-Traditional Patient Education Tools" will appear on the left navigation bar in the section titled "For Clinicians."

The items Golley and her colleagues are searching for include 3D anatomical models, posters, laminated picture cards, interactive kits for patients to practice skills, games, pictorial med sheets, and DVDs that explain medical conditions or self-care concepts. They also are searching for representational models of concepts such as the risk a genetic counseling patient has for carrying a certain disease.

They are undertaking this project because nationally nurses are expected to ask patients how they prefer to learn, Golley says. Patients indicate they prefer one of the following learning methods: reading, hearing, seeing/hearing, or practicing new material to assimilate it. Yet often the care team does nothing to align the way it teaches particular patients even after hearing from the patients that they prefer non-reading methods of learning.

Golley says she is putting the resource listings on an Excel spreadsheet, and the list is growing as she receives leads for non-traditional patient education tools. "Our aim is to encourage care team members to acquire teaching aids for those of their patients who prefer non-reading methods of learning," she explains.


For more information on the non-traditional teaching tool library or to provide tools for the list, contact:

• Linda Golley, MA, Manager, Interpreter services, University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle. Telephone: (206) 598-4663. E-mail: