Skip to main content

Arkansas State University

Nurses at the Forefront of Patient Education

Registered Nurse to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (RN to BSN) degree program prepares nurses to deliver quality patient care. But nurses are also instrumental in educating patients about preventive health measures and living with chronic illnesses. Besides providing treatment and dispensing medication, nurses must know how to communicate self-care instructions to patients for successful health outcomes. Patient education can be beneficial to both patients and healthcare organizations.

Why Is Patient Education Important?

Patients who are educated about proper nutrition, exercise and self-care learn how to change damaging behaviors so they can stay healthy. Patient education involves two components of nursing. First, nurses should give patients an explanation regarding their diagnosis, treatment options and what to expect before and after procedures are performed. This is the clinical aspect of patient care. Second, nurses should inform patients about self-care, wellness and prevention.

These actions are necessary for a patient’s recovery and overall well-being. As such, developing skill with patient education is a key part of professional development and education for the modern nurse.

What Are the Benefits of Patient Education?

Health education benefits not just the patient but healthcare organizations too. Knowledgeable patients spend less time in the hospital, saving the facility valuable resources. Patient satisfaction scores also tend to be higher, which can help with funding.

Patient education further helps nurses establish reciprocal, caring relationships. Patients gain a better understanding of their medical condition and feel comfortable asking questions and seeking assistance. Here are other benefits to promoting patient education:

  • Letting patients have a say in their care
  • Preparing patients to care for themselves at home
  • Nurturing patient trust, confidence and satisfaction
  • Easing patient anxiety about treatment
  • Collaborating with patients about course of action
  • Strengthening communication with patient

How to Instruct Patients?

Nurses should always answer a patient’s questions. A conversational tone and plain language — free of technical terms and medical jargon — can go a long way in increasing a patient’s comfort level. Conversely, the Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) notes that using words patients do not understand is one of the most common reasons for low health literacy levels. Using clear language and excellent verbal communication skills is especially important in the modern era of telehealth and virtual office “visits.”

To ensure patients understand what you are teaching them, it is helpful to have them repeat back to you what was discussed. Return demonstrations and the “teach-back” method are methods that nurses use to help patients learn self-care. After nurses administer a treatment, the patient is asked to show that they can accomplish the same task.

But, as the National Library of Medicine’s MedlinePlus explains, the goal of these methods is not simply to test patient knowledge. Rather, teach-back and return demonstrations are tests of “how well you explained or taught the information or skill.” Not everyone retains information the same way, so skilled nurses tailor instruction to fit the patient. These are examples of resources for patient education:

  • Brochures
  • Customized printed handouts
  • Video tutorials
  • Websites

What Is Health Literacy?

The Healthy People 2030 initiative now defines health literacy in two important ways, distinguishing between personal health literacy and organizational health literacy. Personal health literacy refers to people having “the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.”

Patients with low health literacy may find it difficult to navigate the healthcare system, which involves filling out complicated forms and locating medical assistance. In addition, they may not engage in self-care to manage their diseases. This can result in patients suffering from preventable risks and serious health issues due to straying from prescription directions, forgoing childhood immunizations or disregarding medical test instructions about eating and drinking.

Organizational health literacy concerns the degree to which organizations support and “equitably enable” individuals’ personal health literacy. This consideration highlights the responsibility organizations have to address and foster health literacy. Effective patient education is a central component of these efforts as well as organizational health literacy as a whole.

What Are Some Tips for Improving Patient Education?

The worst time for hospital patient education is at discharge. Instead, patient instruction should start at admission and carry on throughout a patient’s stay. Here are some tips for nurses:

  • Use every opportunity during a patient’s stay to educate them.
  • Pinpoint what the patient already knows and clear up misinformation.
  • Focus on continuity of patient education during staff changes.
  • Reinforce a patient’s knowledge about medication schedule, dosage and side effects.
  • Request that a patient tell you how they would explain their condition and treatment to a family member.
  • Incorporate return demonstration when providing care.

Patient education is a crucial part of nursing. Nurses need to remain compassionate and diligent about patients comprehending information. Education is an effective tool for encouraging patients to participate in stabilizing or maintaining their health. When patients are proactive in their own care plan, they may be more forthcoming about their symptoms and responsive to probing inquiries about their health. Therefore, patients may increase their chances of preventing diseases, managing chronic conditions and recovering from illnesses or injuries.

Learn more about the A-State online RN to BSN program.

Related Articles

Request Information

Submit the form below, and an Enrollment Specialist will contact you to answer your questions.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Or call 866-621-8096

Ready to go?

Start your application today!
Or call 866-621-8096 866-621-8096
for help with any questions you have.
  • Choose All That Apply