Create workable groups for systemwide education 

Motivate staff to develop processes that work

As patient education liaison and performance consultant at Baptist Health South Florida in Miami, Yvonne Brookes, RN, works with staff at four hospitals and four community wellness centers. It is her job to make sure staff have the tools they need for patient education and that processes for teaching are in place.

These tasks are accomplished in several ways. She directs a systemwide patient education board with representatives from all the hospitals and wellness centers, which meets quarterly. She also is the facilitator for all the hospital patient education committees.

"My role is to increase communication about patient education strategies, standards and activities across the system," says Brookes. If a particular form works well at one institution, she pitches it to the others.

She also is the source of information on national trends and local events regarding patient education. To keep abreast of trends she reads publications, monitors a listserv, and networks with colleagues. Belonging to patient education-oriented associations is a good way to make connections, she says.

A hospital or unit will solicit her help if they are having problems with documentation or standards are not being followed. In such cases, she assesses the situation and provides inservices to correct the problem. She also makes sure that all institutions within the system are meeting the Oakbrook Terrace, IL-based Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations (JCAHO) standards for patient education.

"I have been able to establish groups at each hospital and get them to work [both] as a team and independently, so I go in truly as their consultant," says Brookes.

She was given the position of patient education liaison in September 1996 when the hospital at which she worked merged with several other health care facilities in the area. In 2000, she was asked to do all the new nursing orientation at the largest hospital in the system. In addition, she conducts cultural diversity training.

Brookes’ first position in patient education was at Homestead (FL) Hospital, which is part of the Baptist Health system. She was put in charge of diabetes patient education and all community outreach programs. This assignment was given to her because she constantly promoted the importance of educating patients.

The position Brookes fills is in the department of education and she reports to the director of education. She also works closely with the vice president of nursing at each of the health care facilities.

Her background in nursing is on a medical surgical unit and she often works this unit on the weekends when there is a staff shortage. She does this to keep her knowledge and understanding of barriers to patient education fresh.

Working a system

While performing her role of patient education liaison and consultant within a large health care system, Brookes has learned many lessons. In a recent interview with Patient Education Management, she shared some of her insights. The following is some of the information she presented:

  • What is your best success story?

    At Homestead Hospital, Brookes helped establish a patient education document tool that is workable. Staff completes the documentation. To accomplish this, a simple form was implemented that focuses on the outcome rather than on the content of the teaching. Codes are used to indicate whether the patient was able to demonstrate a skill or answer certain questions to show that the teaching was successful.

    The process of patient education at Homestead truly is interdisciplinary as well, Brookes says. When nurses do the initial assessment, they watch for triggers that would prompt them to contact another discipline. For example, if the patient has recently fallen or is having difficulty walking or sitting, physical therapy is alerted via the hospitalwide computer system to screen the patient and determine what education needs to take place. If a patient is on five or more medications, pharmacy is contacted.

  • What is your area of strength?

    Brookes says her area of strength is the ability to get people to work with her very easily and stay onboard. She thinks it comes from the fact that she is committed to patient and family education and sees that it is the essence of nursing. With that conviction, she has been able to motivate other people to work well within groups and committees to really develop processes that work for patients. Organizationally, she is well respected, well known, and people want to work with her.

  • What lesson did you learn the hard way?

    "I learned that what you are able to institute at a smaller hospital with a smaller group of people relatively quickly will take five times as long at a larger hospital," says Brookes.

    Although you want to give up and just let staff do what they want, it’s important to stick to the task knowing that it will happen in time, she says. At a small hospital one group of people make the decision and at a larger hospital five groups of people do, so it’s important to have the patience to go through the process.

  • What is your weakest link?

    It’s difficult for Brookes to support the community wellness centers in the fashion that she would like to because the system has experienced such rapid growth. "I really want them to have the same standards and support as the patient who is coming out of the hospital. The weakest link is to be able to connect those two," says Brookes.

  • What is your vision for patient education in the future?

    Working with the patient education board for Baptist Health South Florida, Brookes would like to develop a model of excellence for patient and family education that they could publish. That would mean that all the health care facilities within their system used the same education tools, methods of documentation, and followed the same standards. All patients would be connected with community programs before they were discharged from the hospital as well.

  • What have you done differently since your last JCAHO visit?

    One larger hospital in the system needed to improve documentation and the interdisciplinary process of patient education. Therefore, the documentation tool that is successful at Homestead was implemented at this hospital. Now that better tools are in place, documentation is being monitored to see if it improves.

  • When trying to create and implement a new form, patient education material, or program, where do you go to get information/ideas from which to work?

    When establishing something new, Brookes goes to other hospitals to ask for copies of the forms and protocols needed for the task and to gather information. Then she sits down with a group to examine the material to determine if something similar could be instituted with a few adjustments.

    "It saves a lot of time; and if it has worked somewhere else, there is no reason that parts of it shouldn’t work with us," says Brookes.


For more information about creating workable groups for systemwide education, contact:

  • Yvonne Brookes, RN, Patient Education Liaison/Performance Consultant, Baptist Health South Florida, 6200 S.W. 73rd St., Miami, FL 33143-4989. Telephone: (786) 662-8139, ext. 4528. E-mail: