LEARNING OBJECTIVE: Recognize the importance of patient education.

Patient (health) education is an essential part of the healthcare delivery system. Patient education is defined as “the process that informs, motivates, and helps people adapt and maintain healthful practices and life styles.” Specifically, the goals of this process are to:

All healthcare providers, whether they recognize it or not, are teaching almost constantly. Teaching is a unique skill that is developed through the application of principles of learning. Patient teaching begins with an assessment of the patient’s knowledge. Through this assessment, learning needs are identified. For example, a diabetic patient may have a need to learn how to self-administer an injection. After the learner’s

needs have been established, goals and objectives are developed. Objectives inform the learner of what kind of (learned) behavior is expected. Objectives also assist the healthcare provider in determining how effective the teaching has been. These basic principles of teaching/learning are applicable to all patient-education activities, from the simple procedure of teaching a patient how to measure and record fluid intake/output to the more complex programs of behavior modification in situations of substance abuse (i.e., drug or alcohol) or weight control.

As a member of the healthcare team, you share a responsibility with all other members of the team to be alert to patient education needs, to undertake patient teaching within the limitation of your own knowledge and skills, and to communicate to other team members the need for patient education in areas you are not personally qualified to undertake.