Three Keys to Effective Patient Education

I’m going to make an obvious statement:

If you want to be an effective patient educator, you yourself must be educated.

Obvious, right?

Here’s the thing. You may be highly educated to function as a nurse, but have you educated yourself to educate? Being an effective patient educator requires more than just knowing how to work equipment, knowing how to perform procedures, knowing the science behind body processes, and knowing how to function within legal boundaries of a nursing license…although all of those can help guide your patient education.

Being an effective patient educator requires at least three things.

1) RELATIONSHIP: This relationship to our patients does not come easily sometimes. After all, we have ten million other things that require our time during a shift…building a patient rapport/relationship often comes last on the list.

But do you remember things that a person tells you better when you feel negative emotion coming from that person? Or do you remember things better when a person is friendly, and treats you like they care? When we present education in a “do I have to” or rushed manner, the patient will not remember much of what we say. But if we take an extra 5 minutes to slow down and care, our patients will retain more information, thus making us more effective educators.

2) MEMORABILITY: We want the patients to remember what we took the time to say. Are you aware of how adults learn and retain information, especially while under stress? Knowing this is important even if your specialty is pediatrics, since you will most likely be educating the parents.

3) APPLICABILITY: We can talk on and on to a patient about ten ways to change dietary habits for their health, but if none of those ways are applicable to the patient’s lifestyle and health challenges, then the information is useless to that patient!

Take a few minutes to understand the patient’s living conditions, educational level, and priorities, and tailor their healthcare education as needed.

The more you know about how people learn, AND about various medical conditions, treatments, and procedures, the better you will be able to tailor information to each person’s level of understanding.

Two of the best things to do to improve your knowledge and presentation are to 1) observe other nurses who are excellent educators, and 2) continuously study to expand your nursing knowledge base.

If you would like to learn more about educating patients and families, take our online course for CE credit on the Nursing Crib Learning Network described here.

Visit, sign up for FREE and take advantage of TWO FREE COURSES, Leadership Styles and Blood Gas Interpretation!

To expand your professional knowledge base even further, take advantage of our DEAL going on for the next THREE DAYS ONLY! Enter ‘35for35’ at checkout to receive a 35% discount on a yearly membership that provides unlimited access to over 140 courses for approved CEU credit! Act now!

Byron Webb Romero, RN, MSN

Finished BSN at Lyceum of the Philippines University, and Master of Science in Nursing Major in Adult Health Nursing at the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center. Currently working at Manila Doctors College of Nursing as a Team Leader for Level I and II, Lecturer for Professional Nursing Subjects, and also a Clinical Instructor.

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