Tailor education by using information assessment

Often health care providers must get creative

The purpose of a learning assessment is to learn how best to teach the patient or family. Therefore, the information gathered must be used to tailor the teaching to the learner.

Patients are asked how they like to learn new things to determine their preferred learning style. However, there may not be any teaching tools that match their preferred style. For example, they may learn best by reading or watching a video, whereas there is no written information or videotape on the topic.

In such a case, this provides an opportunity for educators to get creative, says Kimberly Crosby, RN, director of Guest Services at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. Nurses can create teaching tools for the patients. For example, they can take a piece of paper and write down the four things they want a new mom to remember about feeding her baby. Or they can take a video camera and tape a dressing change or other procedure. If patients learn best by hearing something they can use a tape recorder and verbalize the procedure as they go through the steps.

When barriers to learning exist then the teaching must be altered to overcome them, says Cheryl A. Goddard, RN, a clinical educator at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. For example, if families have low literacy skills they can be given a video to watch at home. That way, they can rewind it and review it as many times as needed and protect their dignity.

You try to tailor the teaching as closely as you can to fit the needs of the patient, says Kathy Ordelt, RN-CPN, CRRN, patient and family education coordinator at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. It is especially important when working with people who have physical or cognitive disabilities, speak other languages or come from other cultures. "All of this must be taken into consideration and the teaching adapted to meet the patient’s needs," she says.

For example, if a family is from Mexico and their child has diabetes, the health care provider would teach them how many tortillas they could eat for breakfast rather than how many bagels they might have.