Make handouts convenient for bedside instruction

Simple sheets provide additional information

HealthQuarters, the patient education resource center at LaPorte (IN) Regional Health System, was implemented as an adjunct to patient education.

Bobbi Herron, RN, BSN, nurse coordinator of HealthQuarters, does everything that she can to aid the nurses with their bedside teaching. Although each unit has written materials available to aid staff with verbal instruction, a call to the resource center provides additional materials when needed.

However, Herron determined that staff were just too busy to make that call. Whenever she went to the various floors to ask nurses what educational handouts she might bring them to help with their teaching that day, the requests were numerous. One day she received 22 requests for information, such as what a patient might expect post-op following total hip surgery.

To help make educational materials more easily accessible, Herron decided to duplicate a lot of the information available on a patient education CD-ROM she had in the resource center and make it available in a binder that could be kept on each floor. To determine which information sheets to include, she looked at the request for information slips she had received from nurses. She also used her own judgment from past experience as a floor nurse and selected 75 topics.

The education binders were distributed to each floor by the representatives that sit on the patient and family education committee, of which Herron chairs. There are actually two binders of information with topics A through G in the first and H through Z in the second. "It is the responsibility of the representative to explain how to use them," she says.

The process is not difficult. An index in the front of each binder lists the topics in alphabetical order. The nurse pulls the information sheet need-ed for the patient from the binder and places a HealthQuarters education information sticker from the patient’s chart on the cardstock tracking sheet in the front of the binder. The sticker has a place for the nurse to write the topic, the date, and initial it. Herron files the cardstock filled with stickers as part of the patient education documentation process.

The handouts provide basic information, says Herron. For example, the sheet on breast cancer explains what it is, how it is diagnosed, what the treatments are, and whether the patient should follow a special diet. It also includes questions to ask a physician. "The handouts have general information about conditions and diagnoses. For most people that don’t have a lot of medical knowledge, it is enough to answer some of the questions they have," she says.

Follow-up available

The number for HealthQuarters is on the handout so patients can call Herron with additional questions once they return home. The most teachable moment is not at the bedside it is after discharge when patients begin feeling better, says Herron. "That is the time when they need something in their hand to read," she explains.

Herron only provides patients with general information, however. If they have questions specific to their case, she refers them to their physician. She will send them a packet of additional information if they want something more in-depth than the handout from the binder. People also are welcome to visit the resource center and find their own information.

While most requests from patients for additional information come after they are discharged from the hospital, on occasion the patient still is on a unit. In that case Herron usually gives the packet of information to the patient’s nurse to deliver to ensure that it is appropriate. If Herron does deliver the information, she goes through it with the patient to explain what she found on the topic of interest.

To make sure that the general information sheets are available when nurses need a handout on a topic, Herron places two copies of each subject in the binder. On Mondays and Fridays, she and the volunteers that help staff HealthQuarters go to each unit and pull the tracking sheet. "We make more handouts and go and replace them on a weekly basis," says Herron.

The binders recently have been introduced and Herron doesn’t know yet if they will be well used. She plans to go to each unit and talk to nurses individually to see how they like them and to make sure they know how to use them.

Originally Herron had planned to put the binders on only a couple units, but all the directors wanted copies on their floors. Also, her original plan was to make the information unit-specific, with cardiac materials in the binders for the cardiac unit and surgical information in the binders for the surgical floor but the task of creating the individual binders became too daunting. With only volunteers to help with the project, it was too difficult to make them unit-specific, says Herron.

For more information on the patient education distribution system initiated at LaPorte Regional Health System, contact:

  • Bobbi Herron, RN, BSN, Nurse Coordinator, HealthQuarters, LaPorte Regional Health System, 1007 Lincoln Way, LaPorte, IN 46350. Telephone: (800) 654-4841, ext. 2127. E-mail: