Patient education from a partnership perspective

Tools for teaching must become interactive

ProHealth Care in Waukesha, WI, is in the process of implementing its "Partnership with Patients Work Plan." Susan M. Kanack, BSN, RN, patient education coordinator, is determining how to make the patient education tools more interactive to fit with the new partnership culture that is being developed.

In a partnership, nurses and other clinicians will engage patients in their care from all aspects, whether it be a task or procedure or in decisions made concerning patient education.

Currently, the tools are script like, states Kanack. They dictate things to be covered such as what a patient needs to do and who he or she needs to contact if there are questions.

"That information is great, but a lot of times it is still the same as lecturing the patient. So changing the formatting of our patient education will help in that the patient might have to write on it and engage with the material, make it their own," explains Kanack.

Although no new tools have yet to be selected, Kanack plans to move away from the checklist of topics that must be taught to the patient. She concedes that sometimes certain topics are required by administration or a regulatory agency but other than mandated information, educators will determine what to cover by interviewing the patient prior to engaging that patient in formal education.

Kanack envisions more of a dialogue between patient and practitioner to customize the education topics to the patient's needs — more of a give-and-take interaction than a general needs assessment interview.

For example, a woman who has just given birth would have different concerns if she already had children at home than if she were a first-time mom. During dialogue a new mom might express a need to know how to bathe a baby while the woman with other children might want to know about juggling sibling care with the needs of a new baby. By engaging the patient, the education is more meaningful, explains Kanack.

Changes will evolve

The educational tools will not be changed to promote a patient partnership until the initiatives being implemented to create that type of culture are in place.

Kanack says the approach is similar to the one her health care institution has taken in regards to health literacy. First, the issue was presented and once staff understood the problem they began to ask for solutions. The same should hold true for patient partnerships. As care is changed little by little, staff will begin to ask how patient education applies.

Kanack does not want to introduce a new education process via an inservice, but have it evolve as the partnership initiatives become common practice. She says a more interactive approach to teaching will start to make sense as a partnership culture develops, and by the time the department is ready to really change how patient education is delivered, it will seem obvious to the staff and they will start to ask for more interactive teaching tools.

The process of education would not be extremely different from what currently happens in that staff conducts needs assessments before teaching. However, rather than an interview, the assessment would be more of a discussion, says Kanack. In a traditional needs assessment the nurse takes the information provided by the patient and formulates a plan. In a partnership, there is a dialogue that continues beyond the needs assessment and the patient and health care practitioner set goals together.

It will be a culture change because health care providers have a desire to impart their knowledge on patients, providing information they think patients must know, says Kanack.

The development and selection of tools to promote partnership in patient education will be accomplished with the aid of the practice council, says Kanack. They will help define what is needed from a bedside standpoint.


For more information about creating patient education tools to fit a patient partnership culture, contact:

  • Susan M. Kanack, patient education coordinator, ProHealth Care, Center for Learning & Innovation, Patient & Family Resource Center at Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, Waukesha, WI. Office: (262) 928-2907. Resource center: (262) 560-4573. E-mail: