Get physicians on your side

Show how patient education benefits them

One of the best ways to get physicians to support patient education is to show how it benefits them, says Mary Wolcott, RN, MSN, patient education coordinator at Methodist Hospital in Omaha, NE.

Find out what physicians keep repeating to their patients or areas where patients are noncompliant and create a handout for them, she advises. This helps to build rapport between the patient education department and physicians, she says.

Wolcott came to the aid of an orthopedic physician who would sit down with each patient and go over a set of exercises he wanted them to do after surgery, yet they never followed through. She offered to create a teaching sheet he could use to reinforce the lesson, explaining that when patients are in pain they often don’t remember what they were taught. Now the physician is satisfied because the patients are more compliant.

Not only did patient education gain an ally, but the department was able to make the sheet available to other physicians. The care manager nurses on the floor who are responsible for teaching and discharge planning showed it to other physicians while they made their rounds to see if it might be beneficial for their patients. One by one they gained the support of each physician and the sheet was included in the total hip replacement surgery book when it was created.

"If you do something for physicians that will help them in their practice you’ll get their support," says Wolcott.

It’s important to spend time with physicians one-on-one, says Jo Wells, MS, community education coordinator for St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center in South Bend, IN. Educators in obstetrics talk with the physicians when they see them in the hallway at the hospital. They also make a special effort to talk with the nursing staff in the physicians’ offices.