Explain survey purpose, reward participants

Test takes only 90 seconds

Getting people to participate in literacy surveys is surprisingly easy if they are approached in the right manner. Medical University of South Carolina conducted 110 interviews in the emergency department using the Rapid Estimate of Adult Literacy in Medicine (REALM) test. Although the emergency department can be a high-stress area, it was a successful location because an experienced nurse conducted the interviews. She knew how to pick patients who were not in much distress.

"[The nurse] found it took about 90 seconds to conduct the test. She would be working 12 hours and would work the interviews into her shift," explains Margaret M. Duffy, EdD, RN, CNN, CCM, a clinical educator at Medical University of South Carolina.

At Egleston-Scottish Rite Children’s Healthcare System in Atlanta, a child life specialist intern conducted interviews using REALM with adults in waiting rooms of various areas including clinics, surgery, and the intensive care unit.

The intern would introduce herself, explain what child life was all about, then ask the parent to participate in a survey for the education department to help determine if the educational materials were written at a level that was understandable to most people, says Kathy Ordelt, RN, CRRN, CPN, patient and family education coordinator at the medical center.

"She explained that all they had to do was read a list of 66 words, which would take about five minutes," says Ordelt. Names were not taken. The only written information taken from the test sheet was the area where the interview was conducted.

Parents who participated in the survey received a Scottish Rite bag filled with handouts, a cup, pen, pencil and some magnets as a gift. "We let them know they would receive a thank you gift for agreeing to an interview. We also let them know that if they did not want to participate that would be fine," explains Ordelt.