Updated: Mar 30
Education at patients’ homes is a part of standard care provided by nurses. When a patient is discharged from hospital or other institution and they need to continue treatment at home, it’s important for them to understand what needs to be done and why.
Each nurse’s responsibility is to familiarize herself/himself with a patient’s state and necessary care. Assuming the patient already knows everything and is ready to start is neither safe or smart.
So how should a nurse approach this situation? What is the purpose of patient education? How do you start educating your patients and what is the most effective approach?
What is education and what is its purpose?
Education provides all the information about the necessary patient care. It explains and teaches a patient all about how to look after themselves in order to preserve and improve their health.
By educating patients and their families, nurses motivate them to look after their health and improve the quality of their lives. Patient education also prevents the condition from getting worse.
Patients’ state doesn't always allows them to learn about their condition and treatment, so if possible, families should be involved in the education process.
Identifying challenges of patient education
Nurses should not assume the values and priorities of their patients.
A person discharged from a hospital might see the transition as challenging. It’s not uncommon for a patient to refuse their treatment at home.
People’s backgrounds can make things more complicated, too. Where they come from, their ethnic background, emotional experiences, and others are all factors to consider when educating a patient.
To assess potential difficulties before teaching you patient, look into their culture, religion, beliefs and health literacy. What do they already know? Is there anything they might be uncomfortable with? And how can you go about it?
Empathy, research, targeted questions – those are all things that will help a nurse overcome challenges in the beginning of a home treatment.
Types of education
Education can be basic and complex.
Basic education is necessary when a patient suffers from a new illness and needs to be informed about everything from the start – all the basics.
Complex education, or reeducation, takes place when there is a new information on a condition or treatment that a patient already has some basic knowledge about. It often includes updates on the topic or new information that corrects the old one. This type of teaching commonly takes place in reeducation courses.
Patient education can be carried out verbally, through printed materials or by showing the patient how to carry out each task.
When explaining the information to your patient, you might not want to use Latin words and specialist terms. Maintain contact, have an open and friendly posture and gestures and speak in a pace that works for the patient.
Explaining by showing is necessary if your patient or his/her family has to perform certain tasks when you’re not around.
It’s particularly useful to teach (and show) them how to inject medications, change a bandage or help a patient change a position on their bed to prevent bed ulcers.
You can also use print/online materials = leaflets, notes, websites and other useful materials. Patients might feel overwhelmed, especially when just discharged from hospital, and it’s possible they would need more time to comprehend all the information.
Leave the leaflets, notes or other material with them, so they can come back to it whenever they need to.
Evaluating patient learning
Simply ask them to tell/show you what they just learned.
Don’t put too much pressure on them after your first visit and first explanation. If possible, have family involved and spend more time with the patient before evaluating.
When you feel like they have gotten more adjusted to their situation, ask them to repeat what you explained or show you how to change their bandage/measure blood glucose/whatever is needed.
Ask them to write down everything they measure. Make sure you answer all the questions they might have. Sometimes, it’s important to ask them if they have any questions – even multiple times.
If the family is in the picture, it’s helpful to have them observe and listen to everything you and the patient talk about.
Every patient (and their family) is different. Patience is key.
Tips to improve patient learning and make education at home easier
Sometimes, explaining and demonstrating the old school way might not be enough. Sympathetic nurses will often go out of their way to make sure their patients understand and process their health condition and recovery process.
You can try computer aids, if your patient and/or their family is comfortable with it. There are programs that allow the patient to go through all the information as often as they need to. If they’re comfortable to do so, they can also take a quiz at the end.
Videos are an amazing help, too. You can explain, show and even leave a leaflet at the patient’s home, but they might still not be sure about how to perform a task. Record a video or download one and leave it accessible to them whenever they might need it.
Help them with their prescriptions. If you can, it can be very helpful for a patient to have their medications prescribed and ready ahead of time. Divide and prepare them in a pill box and/or write the information down in a compendious way.
Inform a patient about signs and symptoms of their condition, specifically the ones that would require immediate help.
Always communicate with your patient. Ask them questions, be patient with them and explain as many times as they need.
I wrote this article with the help of above resources and the owner of StarDOS - a patient home care non-profit.