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Teach patients to take charge of their education
For best results, patient education should be a partnership between health care providers and patients. But all too often, most of the responsibility for the lessons learned falls upon the educator.
"When health care providers learn, they expect to be partners in the education process, but frequently they don’t put that expectation on patients," says David Przestrzelski, MS, RN, director of nursing and patient education at Southern Arizona Veterans Affairs (VA) Health Care System in Tucson.
To initiate this partnership, the health care facility piloted the use of a booklet that helps patients prepare for their visit by triggering questions so that they will be able to identify why they are coming to see the physician, what they hope to get out of the visit, specific symptoms that they want to mention to the physician, and specific questions they have for their provider.
The Southern Arizona VA currently is taking steps to insert a handout with similar instructions in the letters sent to patients reminding them of clinic appointments. This handout also will remind them to bring a list of their medications, a pain log if they have one, prompt them to make a list of pressing questions or concerns, and write down any new problems or symptoms they have had since the last visit.
Instructions for concluding the visit with the physician include making sure patients understand what was said by repeating the information provided, clarifying the next step in their care, letting the clinician know if they cannot or will not do what they’ve been told, asking for written information about medications, condition, illness, and treatment, and making sure the patient knows who to call with questions or concerns.
"You won’t increase the time for the provider to spend on patient education if he or she has to invest a lot of time in creating or teaching the partnership. You have to create systems that enable patients, that empower them, and let them know that they can in fact be partners," says Przestrzelski.