Health literacy competencies staff should have

The following is a list of health literacy competencies for staff created by Sandra Cornett, RN, PhD, director AHEC Clear Health Communication Program Office of Outreach & Engagement, The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, OH.

A. Creating a Shame-Free, Patient-Centered Environment

• Be helpful, respectful, caring, and sensitive to a person's feelings.

• Help prepare the person for the appointment or hospital stay by offering suggestions on how to be an active partner in his or her care.

• Pay attention to a person's non-verbal behaviors and your body language when communicating.

• Offer help, in a confidential manner, to complete forms, make referral appointments, and provide directions.

• Protect the person from embarrassment by providing privacy when giving information

• Be non-judgmental and empathetic.

• Actively listen and encourage questions and/or address concerns.

B. Assessing for Low Health Literacy Skills

• Assess patients' level of health literacy by observing behaviors/characteristics for clues and asking appropriate questions to help determine if low health literacy skills are an issue.

C. Planning for Giving Health Information

• Create an environment for learning.

• Note any special needs, such as difficulty hearing or seeing, and plan to adapt teaching methods to meet these needs.

• Set priorities for health teaching – do not overwhelm by giving too much information at one time.

• Determine what key points in the health message to give.

• Select appropriate methods to use in giving instructions/health education.

• Select appropriate teaching tools and materials to supplement verbal instruction.

• Organize instruction by framing the message.

D. Implementing Clear Health Communication Skills

• Sit rather than stand.

• Speak slowly, in normal tones, and articulate clearly.

• Use everyday language with no medical jargon; explain health terms.

• Choose words carefully and be consistent in use of terms.

• Focus on person's actions or behaviors for desired outcome.

• Teach practical information and give specific instructions; use examples and analogies relevant to person.

• Provide easy-to-read written materials in plain language at or below 8th grade reading level to reinforce the information; show pictures.

• Include an interaction for each key point.

• Give feedback at intervals to assist in retention of information.

E. Evaluating Patients' Understanding

• Use teach-back or show-me method to verify understanding.

• Ask specific, open-ended questions to see if person can apply the information to "real-world" examples.

• If a skill is taught, ask person to return and demonstrate, and how to solve or trouble shoot any problems.