Chapter 1: An Approach to Patient Education 7
• Appropriateuseofpatient’sbackground
• Makesclearthenextstepforpatient
• Asksforquestions
• Closureandfollow-up
Theprecedingtechniquesarebasictoanygoodinter-
view process.It iscritical touse appropriatevocabulary
tomakesureapatientfullyunderstandsthenatureofthe
diseaseaswellasthetreatmentbeingprescribed.Inaddi-
tion, patients should be encouraged to express their
thoughtsandfeelings,andthiscanbeaccomplishedwith
suchtechniquesasfacilitation,eyecontact,useofsilence,
andopen-endedaswellasdirectquestions.Thekeytoa
successful interchange involves exibility on the part of
the interviewer. It may be important to vary from the
didactic, informational aspects of the interview to pay
attentiontoapatient’sneedforreassuranceandempathy.
Movingthroughtheinterviewinawell-pacedfashionand
using smooth transitions from section to section makes
theentireinterviewmoreunderstandabletothepatientas
heorshetriestoabsorballtheinformationbeingoffered.
Finally, the use of audiovisual aids or handouts can be
criticalto ensuringthat a patientfully comprehendshis
orhermedicalproblemaswellaswhatneedstobedone
toaddressit.
Specic Suggestions for Enhancing
the Patient Education Process
Thefollowingsuggestionscanaidinenhancingthepatient
educationprocess.
Pay Attention to Using Good Interviewing
Techniques
Helpingpatientstosuccessfullydealwithmedicalproblems
involves being able both to educate and to motivate for
change.Thisrequiresuseofskillfulinterpersonaltechniques.
One needs to be attuned to both verbal and nonverbal
aspectsoftheinteraction.Withtimeandpractice,onewill
developasenseofwhenit’sbesttobesilentandlistento
apatientandwhentoprovidespeciceducationalinforma-
tion or support. Being prepared and organized ahead of
time(e.g.,havinglabworkonthechart,pullingtogether
handouts,havingawritten-outtreatmentplanspecically
forthepatient)willfacilitatetheentireprocessandlikely
improveunderstandingandcompliance.
Present Information Through
Several Channels
Do not simply rely on direct verbal communication to
ensurea patient’s understanding. For some people, verbal
learningisnotassuccessfulasvisuallearning.Thatis,some
individualsmayunderstandandretaininformationbetter
iftheyareabletolookatahandout,chart,Internetsite,or
followanexaminationofanX-ray.Also,somepatientsmay
benetfromtheopportunitytomeetandtalkwithothers
who have dealt with a certain problem or are currently
undergoing treatment for a particular medical condition.
Suchpeersupportcanbeaveryeffectivetoolinmotivating
anindividualtocomplywithtreatment.
Always Supplement the Educational Process
with Teaching Materials
The patient education process can be overwhelming
becausesomuchinformationmayneedtobecovered.It
isthereforerecommendedtoprovidepatientswithbro-
chures,handouts,medicationinserts,electronicresources,
anoutlineofthetreatmentplan,orothermaterialsthat
will permit later perusalto reinforce whatwas covered
duringtheactualinterview(seeChapter2).
Involve Families or Signicant Others
Where Possible
Remember that the patients are part of a larger family
system. Most often these family members are very con-
cernedaboutthehealthoftheirlovedone,andinvolving
theminthetreatmentprocesscanbeveryuseful.Indeed,
suchinvolvementmayinsomecasesensurecompliance
with a treatment plan. Ask how the patient is going to
explaina particularhealthproblemtohis or herfamily.
Invitefamilymemberstoattendafollow-upappointment
sothat they,too,can hearaboutthe situation andlearn
howtheycanhelp.
Be Sure to Raise the Sensitive Issues
Therearecertainsubjectsthattendtobehighlysensitive,
andsomepatientsmayhaveunderlyingconcernsorfears
thattheymaynotopenlyvoice.Suchtopicsassexuality
ordeath anddying fall into this category. Becausethese
topicsmayproduceembarrassmentorfeelingsofdespon-
dency,apatientmaybereluctanttoinquireaboutthem.
Therefore, it is critical for the healthcare professional to
initiate such a discussionwhen it is clearly pertinent to
thetreatmentplan(e.g.,medicationsthatmightinterfere
withsexualfunctioning,theneedforapatienttorecog-
nizethatthetreatmentoptionsforaparticularcondition
maybeonlypalliative).Raisingtheseissuessignalsthatit
isallrighttotalkaboutmoresensitivemattersandallows
thepatienttoopenlyexpresshisorherunderlyingfears
andconcerns.
Be Attuned to Emotional Reactions
As previously noted, patients experience emotional
reactionstolearningofaparticularillnessandtheneed
tofollowacourseoftreatment.Providingcomprehen-
sive health care requires exploring these emotional
topics. Whether the patient is expressing fear, anger,
anxiety,ordepression,unlessthehealthcareprofessional
inquiresaboutsuchreactionsandtakesstepstoaddress
them, the treatment outcome may be in jeopardy.
Allowingforventilationoffeelingsandofferingsupport
areviewedasanintegralpartofthepatienteducation
process.
Don’t Think That When the Topic
Is Covered It Is Completely
Resolved for the Patient
Forsomeindividuals,providingeducationaboutadisease
ortreatmentplanwillbeenoughtomotivatethemtogo
forward and carry out what has been prescribed. For

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