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Topics taught, teaching methods depend on mission
The first step in creating a community and patient resource or learning center is to determine your goal or mission, says Carol Maller, MS, RN, CHES, patient education coordinator at Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center in Albuquerque, NM.
"Our mission focuses more on prevention and self-care than it does on diseases. We feel that if someone has a particular disease, the information about that individual’s situation needs to come from his or her provider, who knows the extent and complexity of the disease," says Maller.
Therefore, the Fountain of Healthy Living Learning Center at the VA Medical Center is designed to support people in lifestyle changes such as weight loss and exercise. Also, staff coach patients on how to manage their visit with their physician, helping them determine what kinds of questions to ask to get the information they need about treatment or their illness. While general information is given to patients, specific questions are directed to their physician.
The learning center is tailored to the needs of the medical center’s patient population. Almost all the patients who walk through the door need help with prevention and lifestyle change, says Maller.
Determining the purpose of the learning center up front is vital, agrees Zeena Kies Engelke, RN, MS, senior clinical nurse specialist in patient and family education at University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison. "Our learning center is an extension of clinical teaching. It is not a stand-alone resource library, but an integral part of the teaching process. We draw on defined skills [to achieve specific goals] or video technologies to support the clinical teaching rather than simply offering books, pamphlets, videos, and computer access," she explains.
Physicians, nurses, and other disciplines send patients to the learning center for specific teaching. The center also has open hours where anyone interested in obtaining information can walk through the door.
The location of a resource center often is determined by its purpose. Because the learning center at the University of Wisconsin hospital focuses on clinical teaching, it is located on a nursing unit, so it is convenient for very sick patients. The medical center is currently creating learning centers for two large clinics that are being built. The learning centers will be tailored to the services provided by those clinics.
"If one clinic has more pediatric surgeries, we’ll do more pediatric surgical teaching. Our offerings will depend on the services that surround us," says Engelke.
Also, materials selected for a collection must be tailored to customer need, says Arlen Gray, MA, coordinator of the Family Library at Egleston Children’s Hospital at Emory University in Atlanta. At Egleston, areas of high interest include cardiology, hematology-oncology, neonatal services, pediatric organ transplantation, and acquired brain injuries. (To learn more about Web sites as information sources, see article, p. 20.)
To be of benefit to all customers, offer the material in a variety of formats, such as print, video, electronic, and models, advises Gray. Make these materials as culturally inclusive as possible, selecting pieces that reflect the cultural norms and languages of your customer groups.
Before selecting materials for the Senior Resource Center at J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging and Rehabilitation at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center in Winston-Salem, NC, staff surveyed all geriatric specialists and faculty. They were asked what sort of materials and topics they would want stocked at a resource center for their patients, says Patricia Suggs, MDiv, MEd, PhD, resource center coordinator.
All materials at the Senior Resource Center focus on issues of aging. There is even a section for brochures and fact sheets from local assisted living facilities and retirement communities. Also, learning methods are senior-friendly. For example, the center has a collection of audiotapes for those who are visually impaired.
The resource center at Rapides Regional Medical Center in Alexandria, LA, is located near an OB/GYN clinic and therefore focuses on women’s issues. Physicians and other health care workers, such as childbirth educators, refer patients to the center for additional information.
To determine what new materials to stock, staff look to educators, current medical practice, and consumer information. "If you are reading magazines, listening to the radio and the TV, you’ll know what is popular. Natural childbirth is very big again, and there are many new techniques," says Mamie Gandy, assistant to the manager of the resource center at Rapides medical center.
The Rapides resource center allows customers to check out materials and bring them back when they come for their next physician appointment. Other centers provide written materials that are distributed free of charge.
Staff at the Senior Resource Center issue cards with ID numbers to each person who receives material. This ID number is used to track via computer the pamphlets and information customers are taking (all the information is free). "The database will tell us when we need to reorder materials. Also, we can run reports on who is using the center, what region of the county they are from, their sex, and their age," says Gandy.
For more information on creating a resource center, contact:
• Zeena Kies Engelke, RN, MS, Senior Clinical Nurse Specialist, Patient and Family Education, University of Wisconsin Hospital & Clinics, 3330 University Ave., Suite 300, Madison, WI 53705. Telephone: (608) 263-8734. Fax: (608) 265-5444. E-mail: email@example.com.
• Sissy Franks, Manager of Education Resource Center, Rapides Regional Medical Center, 211 Fourth St., Alexandria, LA 72301-8421. Telephone: (318) 449-7111. Fax: (318) 449-7427.
• Arlen Gray, MA, Family Library Coordinator, Egleston-Scottish Rite Children’s Healthcare System, 1405 Clifton Road NE, Atlanta, GA 30322-1101. Telephone: (404) 315-2611. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Carol Maller, MS, RN, CHES, Patient Education Coordinator, VA Medical Center, 2100 Ridgecrest Drive SE, Albuquerque, NM 87108. Telephone: (505) 265-1711, ext. 4656. Fax: (505) 256-2870. E-mail: MALLER.CAROLYN_ALBUQUERQUE.VA.GOV. Web site for learning center: http://www.va.gov/station/501-albuquerque/fountain.htm.
• Patricia Suggs, MDiv, MEd, PhD, Coordinator Senior Resource Center, J. Paul Sticht Center on Aging and Rehabilitation, Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, Medical Center Blvd., Winston-Salem, NC 27157. Telephone: (336) 713-8558. Resource center: (336) 713-8531. Fax: (336) 713-8588. E-mail: email@example.com.