Nurses are the most flexible group of people there is in the society. One of the roles they can assume in their daily professional practice is being a teacher. In fact, teaching is an important independent function of nurses. It is even considered a legal and professional responsibility. Championing every patient’s right to client education, nurses go about their day making sure they have imparted their knowledge about health promotion and disease prevention to a broad audience.
Educating clients is a two-way street. Nurses must make sure their clients understood what they have imparted. Therefore, it is important for nurses to consider factors that will affect understanding (e.g., literacy level, educational background, language skills, and culture) to enhance client cooperation and adherence.
Teaching is both science and art. Often, nurses might find themselves developing written instructions for clients to take home with them. This is of particular importance because written teaching aids should be effective to send the relevant thoughts across. This will be the one that will assume nurses’ roles when clients go back to their community.
Here are five tips to writing effective teaching aids for patient education:
1. Language Level and Voice
In developing effective written teaching aids, language level must be at or below the fifth-grade level. This is because not all clients would benefit from technical words even though their usage would facilitate accuracy of instructions. Clients have different levels of educational attainment so it is important that nurses would be able to produce a teaching aid that will match the client’s level of understanding.
Focus should be given on the choice of words. These words should be simple, something that one would use in usual conversations. For example, the nurse can use the word “give” instead of “administer” when talking about medications. Also, the words used should mean the same to both the nurse and the client. Abbreviations and acronyms that are not universally accepted should be avoided.
On the other hand, the voice that should be used is active. The goal is patient adherence so aim for teaching aids that would actually make clients want to follow the instructions. Voice should be neutral and firm but not condescending or demanding. Avoid using all capital letters because it is always misinterpreted as the nurse being angry.
2. Sentence structure and size type
Nurses should bear in mind to use short sentences. When writing down, read the sentence aloud, and if it caused you to catch your breath, then the sentence is not short enough. Short sentences are effective in a sense that they convey the main thought directly. It is easy for clients to be confused with too many words. Some clients do not have the patient to scan for that one piece of information they need in a sea of paragraphs so keep your sentences direct and short.
As for size type, a good size type ranges from 14 to 16. Clients are most likely to tuck or place it on surfaces they frequent on at most times so it is important that they can see it clearly. If it is handwritten, be sure you write it legibly and large enough to be seen at a certain distance.
3. Prioritization and Setting Examples
Place priority information first and nurses may repeat it more than once. Key points should be emphasized in simple terms, especially if nurses are addressing clients with low literacy levels.
As much as possible, nurses should be specific with their instructions. They should do it without overwhelming the clients with a great deal of information they have to remember. They can do it by providing examples. For an instance, after writing down “Eat a low-sodium diet.” nurses can supplement it by adding foods to avoid. Nurses should also be specific with the allowed amount of sodium intake and emphasize to the clients the importance of reading food labels.
4. Forms and Other Resources of Teaching Aids
Nurses can use a simple drawing or a picture as they deem appropriate. This may help reinforce information and will work better for visual learners. Relevant cartoons are also a great way of helping clients associate new information easily. Nurses can also share links to helpful websites and contact number of local support groups in the community. Lastly, nurses should avoid handouts with many pages and classroom lecture format with a large group.
5. Obtain Feedback
Asking the client questions or letting the client repeat the written instructions is one way of evaluating patient understanding. Return demonstrations of skills may be done too so nurses can correct mistakes and gaps in the learning process of clients and their families
Nurses must always allot time for clients to ask them questions about parts which they didn’t hear well and accurately. It is also important to note that amount of information should be limited in a single teaching. A more frequent session with a major point per session is definitely better than one long session with a great deal of information. The optimal time for each session depends largely on the learner.
Nurses facilitate positive health behavior change. Of course, knowledge alone will not make this happen. Simply providing information will not automatically translate to behavior change. Therefore, with the use of effective written teaching aids and thorough assessment of clients’ willingness, perceived need to change, and barriers to change, adaptation of positive health behaviors will be possible and this will be sustained even patients are back to the community and are primarily responsible for their health and well-being.