Switching gears to improve patient education

CQI becomes key focus of patient education

Sometimes, patient education committees don’t always end up where they started out.

The patient education committee at Shands at the University of Florida in Gainesville was originally implemented in 1996 to help the institution meet Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations’ standards for patient and family education, but now its tasks evolve according to the organization’s needs. For example, a couple of years after its founding, a patient satisfaction survey revealed a need for quality improvement in education. The administration asked the committee to focus on continuous quality improvement, so it became a CQI team, says Kathy Gamble, ARNP, MN, coordinated care manager in the department of nursing & patient services and co-chair of the committee.

The committee, made up of 30 people representing the various services and departments throughout the health care system, came up with five overall recommendations. They included:

• Establish patient and family education as a priority across Shands health care.

• Create an ongoing multidisciplinary team for patient and family education.

• Develop a computerized systemwide index of materials available including samples of materials.

• Provide consistent admission information to patients and families.

• Develop a coordinated team approach to ensure an interdisciplinary treatment plan.

To get work done efficiently, the committee prioritized tasks, first creating the ongoing multidisciplinary team for patient and family education by solidifying the committee. Their second project was to create a computerized systemwide index of patient education materials.

Because there is no one who coordinates patient and family education and the committee members have many other duties, the patient education committee at Shands is a working committee. "We decided that our meetings would be working meetings and we would more or less do the work we needed to do within the meetings," says Gamble. When legwork is required, such as the cataloging of patient education materials, health education interns from the university are used.

Some of the other quality improvement tasks the committee has completed include patient and family education as part of employee orientation and establish a policy to ensure consistency in the quality of internally developed materials.

"Once the CQI team made the recommendations, we transitioned back to being a patient and family education team. Our true purposes are one, to meet the Joint Commission standards on patient and family education, and two, to implement the recommendations from the CQI team," says Gamble. n

For more information about including CQI projects as part of the duties of a patient education committee, contact:

Kathy Gamble, ARNP, MN, Coordinated Care Manager, Department of Nursing & Patient Services, Shands at the University of Florida, Box 100335, Gainesville, FL 32610. Telephone: (352) 265-0392. Fax: (352) 265-0253. E-mail: gamblk@shands.ufl.edu.