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Arkansas State University

The Nurse’s Role in Patient Education

the nurse's role in patient education

After nurses graduate from a RN to BSN degree program, they become educators even if they do not work as teachers in academia. Nursing is not just about dispensing medication or administering treatments. Nurses also are responsible for teaching patients about preventing and managing medical conditions. By relaying information, nurses help patients take control of their healthcare.

Why Is Patient Education Important?

Patient education is a significant part of a nurse’s job. Education empowers patients to improve their health status. When patients are involved in their care, they are more likely to engage in interventions that may increase their chances for positive outcomes. The benefits of patient education include:

  • Prevention of medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes or heart disease.
  • Patients who are informed about what to expect during a procedure and throughout the recovery process.
  • Decreasing the possibility of complications by teaching patients about medications, lifestyle modifications and self-monitoring devices like a glucose meter or blood pressure monitor.
  • Reduction in the number of patients readmitted to the hospital.
  • Retaining independence by learning self-sufficiency.

What Is the Nurse’s Role in Patient Education?

Effective patient education starts from the time patients are admitted to the hospital and continues until they are discharged. Nurses should take advantage of any appropriate opportunity throughout a patient’s stay to teach the patient about self-care. The self-care instruction may include teaching patients how to inject insulin, bathe an infant or change a colostomy pouching system.

Without proper education, a patient may go home and resume unhealthy habits or ignore the management of their medical condition. These actions may lead to a relapse and a return to the hospital. To educate patients, nurses may instruct patients about the following:

  • Self-care steps they need to take.
  • Why they need to maintain self-care.
  • How to recognize warning signs.
  • What to do if a problem occurs.
  • Who to contact if they have questions.

How Can Nurses Ensure Patient Comprehension?

Many patients lack knowledge about healthcare. Nurses must assess their patients to pinpoint the best way to educate them about their health and determine how much they already know about their medical condition. They need to build a rapport with patients by asking questions to zero in on concerns. Nurses may have to adjust their teaching strategies to fit the patient’s preferences. Many patients want detailed information, though some may request only a checklist. Once nurses complete the patient assessment, they can provide instruction by using the following:

  • Common words and phrases.
  • Reading materials written at a sixth-grade level.
  • Video.
  • Audio.

A hands-on approach is instrumental in guaranteeing that a patient understands medical requirements. Nurses should perform a demonstration and have patients repeat back the information or carry out the procedure themselves. Nurses should also teach the patient’s family members, friends or caregivers at home.

How Are Patients Different?

Not every patient has the same learning ability. Patients may have developmental disorders or literacy limitations. Some patients may respond better to visual content than to plain text. Others may have hearing or vision impairment. Nurses may encounter language or cultural barriers. Consider the following questions when assessing patients.

  • What level of education do they have?
  • Can they read and comprehend directions for medications, diet, procedures and treatments?
  • What is the best teaching method? Reading, viewing or participating in a demonstration?
  • What language does the patient speak?
  • Does the patient want basic information or in-depth instruction?
  • How well does the patient see and hear?

In order to create an environment that is conducive to patient education, nurses should develop a supportive relationship with their patients. Patients equipped with knowledge can make lifestyle changes and remain self-sufficient even if they have a chronic medical condition. Education can increase the likelihood of successful outcomes and improve patient safety and satisfaction.

Learn more about Arkansas State University’s online RN to BSN degree program.


Wolters Kluwer: The Value of Education for Patients Outcomes

MedlinePlus: Choosing Effective Patient Education Materials Five Tips for Providing Effective Patient Education

Nurse Journal: Tips to Improve Patient Education

American Nurses Association: Patient Education

Nursing2018: Patient-Education Tips for New Nurses

Houston Chronicle: Role of Patient Teaching for the Professional Nurse

Urgent Care Association of America: The Benefits and Importance of Educating Patients in Health Care

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