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Assessment measures three areas
The education assessment at Craig Hospital in Englewood, CO, has three sections: One is designed to assess a patient’s readiness to learn, a second to assess potential barriers to learning, and the third to determine the patient’s preferred style of learning, whether auditory (hearing), visual (seeing), or kinesthetic (doing).
Determining how a patient prefers to learn and tailoring the teaching to the patient is the best way to teach, says Theresa M. Chase, ND, RN, a patient education clinical specialist at the hospital for patients with spinal cord and brain injuries. That’s why she created an inservice for nursing staff that helps them understand the various styles of learning and how a person identifies their preferred method of communication and learning.
Those who teach patients need to know that
to meet the needs of a visual learner, they can’t just show a video. For good educational sessions to take place, staff should know learning style encompasses the words they use to explain a procedure or treatment method, as well. For example, with a visual learner, visual words like "picture this" or "focus on this" would work best. With auditory learners, words selected to teach something would focus more on hearing such as "Does this ring a bell?"
"One of the problems in education in general
is that we need to be better communicators. We have the information, but learning how to get it across to people will make a much bigger difference than having more information," says Chase.
The inservice on learning styles for nurses at Craig Hospital begins with reminders of how good teachers gain rapport with patients by being warm, caring, and accepting, and also by participating in a dialogue with learners as equals.
The inservice continues with statistics on how much people remember about what they learn after one month. Chase explains to the nurses that people remember 14% of what they hear, 22% of what they see, 30% of what they watch others do through demonstrations and modeling, and 42% of sensory redundancy in which a concept is taught by repeated visual, auditory, and kinesthetic aids. People remember 92% of what they teach others. "The more sensory modalities you present something in, the better off you will be; and if you get patients to teach it back to you, they are more likely to remember it," says Chase.
Clues to learning style
To help nurses understand the concept of learning style, Chase administers a short Visual, Audi-tory, Kinesthetic (V-A-K) Assessment, produced by Lakewood, CO-based NLP Comprehensive, to help them identify their own preferred style of learning. (For information on how to obtain a copy of the V-A-K assessment, see sources, at the end of this article.)
The assessment requires participants to answer nine questions, circling as many answers that apply. For example, question No. 1 asks: "When I have leisure time, I prefer to: a) watch TV, a video, or go to the movies; b) listen to music, radio, or read books; or c) do something athletic, physical, or using my hands." The assessment not only helps nurses understand their dominant learning style, it helps them see how it influences communication with patients. A visual person automatically uses words that reflect their preference, such as bright, magnify, or fuzzy, which may not always get their point across to the patient.
Therefore, the second exercise at the inservice
is to have the participants pair up and teach their partner from a list of either visual, auditory, or kinesthetic words. The first time, the lists and learners are mismatched. For example, if the person is an auditory learner, the teacher uses visual terms, and often the auditory person cannot understand the point the teacher is trying to get across. Then the teacher is given the list of words that matches the learner, and the session goes much smoother. "People are so unaware of how they are coming across [with] the words they use, so the exercise heightens their awareness," says Chase.
Also covered during the inservice is the importance of listening to the patients while teaching and the variety of teaching aids available that can be used to match the patient’s preferred style of learning. "We have a variety of teaching methods for the nurses to use, such as videos, written materials, classes, simulators, and demonstration," says Chase.
The problem with learning assessment is that nurses often are reluctant or embarrassed to ask patients how best they learn. Therefore, Chase will often ask patients in front of a nurse how they would like to learn something. She teaches by example in other ways, as well. On rounds or at a nurses station, if a nurse provides information on a patient’s learning style, she will offer suggestions for teaching resources they can use. Each time she teaches a group, she uses a variety of teaching methods as an example.
"Overall, the nurses are more aware of the learning-style issue. I keep bringing it up at inservices, on the floor, and by example. I think we still have a ways to go; the hospital has a long history of video use, and it is hard to break old habits," says Chase. n
For more information about instructing nurses on preferred learning style, contact:
• Theresa M. Chase, ND, RN, Patient Education Clinical Specialist, TBI/SCI Lifestyle Education, 3425 S. Clarkson St., Englewood, CO 80110. Telephone: (303) 789-8211. Fax: (303) 789-8219. E-mail: tmchase@ craighospital.org.
• V-A-K Assessment, available from LifeStar, 2244 S. Olive St., Denver, CO 80224-2528. Telephone: (303) 757-2039. Assessments are $1.50 per copy plus 50 cents shipping and handling.
• NLP Comprehensive, is a company that holds work-shops on Neuro-Linguistic Programming, which is
the science of how the brain codes learning and experience. For more information, contact the company at 12567 W. Cedar Dr., Suite 102, Lakewood, CO 80228. Telephone: (303) 987-2224 or (800) 233-1657. Web: www.nlpco.com.