Educational opportunities keep teaching skills sharp

Brush up with inservices, self-study modules, videos

Most patient education managers agree that it is important to equip employees with the tools they need to effectively teach patients. However, this entails much more than an adequate supply of written materials and videos. It includes teaching employees the techniques they need to instruct patients and prompting education to ensure that patients are safely discharged.

To see how health care facilities are making sure employees are properly trained to teach, Patient Education Management contacted a few to determine what administrators have set in place. Following are their approaches for equipping employees for teaching:

At Jackson Health System/University of Miami Medical Center, Sharon Sweeting, MS, RD, LD, CDE, coordinator of patient and family education, teaches two classes that offer continuing education credits. Twice each year, she offers an all-day seminar for licensed health care providers on techniques for reaching low literacy patients titled "Do You Understand?"

In the six-hours of instruction, she covers the readability formulae, teaching strategies for low-literacy learners, and information about low literacy and health literacy in the United States.

Four times a year she teaches a four-hour class titled "You Want Me to Teach What? To Whom?" that covers the basics of patient education for health care providers. "It’s very interactive and [all the students] teach something to the group by the end of the session," says Sweeting. Curriculum includes the principles of adult education, strategies for teaching low-literacy learners, presentation techniques, and different modalities of teaching such as video and audio.

All new employees receive 30 minutes of instruction during orientation that includes information on how to teach adults, low-literacy learners, resources available within the health care system, and why patient education is valued internally and externally. "It’s probably the best 30 minutes of teaching I do in my job, and I love that experience as they get so fired up," says Sweeting.

Although training helps make better teachers, it doesn’t always ensure that the education will take place; therefore, several resources that prompt education are put in place. These include clinical pathways and 62 diagnosis-driven patient education protocols in chart form with a checklist for content to teach on that diagnosis as well as a resource list to aid in the teaching content.

Self-study can be versatile

At Southeast Missouri Hospital in Cape Girardeau, MO, a video on techniques for teaching patients effectively is shown to all new nurses and other professionals who teach. In addition, a self-study module is available for further study.

The content of the module includes:

  • a copy of the Joint Commission’s patient education standards;
  • the hospital’s policies and procedures regarding patient and family education;
  • instructions on how to use the patient education materials database in the computer;
  • samples of the hospital’s developed patient teaching handouts and samples of patient teaching documentation;
  • instructions on how to use the drug monograph system;
  • a sample of the multidisciplinary patient education record;
  • a booklet published by Krames titled A Guide to Teaching Patients.

To determine success, a post-test is included.

"We chose the module format because we could design the education specific to how education is done at our hospital," says Gwen Beaudean Thoma, EdD, RN, CNA, BC, director of educational services at Southeast Missouri Hospital. Each nursing unit has a copy of the module, and the manager can request that staff work through it whenever they need to brush up on their teaching skills. The module is updated as needed.

The questions in the patient care notes remind nurses and other employees of the documentation needed for each patient. The documentation is computerized at the hospital.

To ensure continuing education on patient teaching at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago a self-study packet is available as well as a workshop for staff RNs, unit-based inservices, and biannual educator meetings.

Information covered in these various modalities for teaching include assessment, planning interventions, evaluation of barriers to learning, and overcoming educational barriers, says Magdalyn Patyk, MS, RN, BC, patient education consultant at Northwestern Memorial.

The self-learning is used because employees can study at their own pace when time is available and there is less time spent off their unit.

A multidisciplinary patient education tool used for documentation reflects teaching learning principles such as barriers to learning, objectives, patient response, and follow-up needed. Thus, it helps prompt effective teaching. Also educational prompts, such as barriers to learning, are being put into pathways, says Patyk.


For more information about providing educational opportunities and prompts for staff, contact:

• Gwen Beaudean Thoma, EdD, RN, CNA, BC, Director of Educational Services, Southeast Missouri Hospital, 1701 Lacey St., Cape Girardeau, MO 63701. Telephone: (573) 651-5810. E-mail:

• Magdalyn Patyk, MS, RN, BC, Patient Education Consultant, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 251 E. Huron, Suite 4-708, Chicago, IL 60611-2908. Telephone: (312) 926-2173. E-mail:

• Sharon Sweeting, MS, RD, LD, CDE, Coordinator, Patient and Family Education, Jackson Health System/University of Miami Medical Center, Miami, FL. Telephone: (305) 585-8168. E-mail: