Create steps to reach goals

Set deadlines, follow up to ensure completion

When wearing two hats, it’s fine to delegate tasks and prioritize job duties, but ultimately goals for patient education must be met.

Therefore, it is important to have steps in place to make sure that patient education is not shortchanged, says Dawn Stivale, MSN, RN, nursing educator for ambulatory services and chairwoman of the patient/family education committee at the University of Pennsylvania Medical Center in Philadelphia. Following are a few suggestions:

Set deadlines.

Every task involved in developing a program or educational materials should have a deadline. Always set one for yourself as well as those you delegate work to, says Stivale.

Follow up.

Whenever you assign someone a task, follow up to make sure that it is being done. For example, when the patient education committee asked each unit to create a bulletin board on patient education, Stivale went from unit to unit to make sure the task was accomplished. "It might be more work initially, but I have found that they grow to know you are a person of your word," she explains.

Use technology.

There’s no need to call each member of the patient education committee when a meeting is scheduled or to follow up on a project. Make use of the hospital voice-mail or e-mail system, advises Sue Chapman, EDD, director of education and volunteer services at St. Mary’s Health Care System in Athens, GA. With technology, you can create one message and send it to everyone at the same time.

Involve committee.

When other job duties need your attention, there isn’t always enough time to do a thorough job on patient education projects. Therefore, it’s important that all members selected for the patient education committee be committed and willing to share responsibilities. It’s especially important to have a supportive vice-chair, says Stivale.