Patient education is something that is woven into the fabric of a healthcare practitioner. For the physical therapist, failing your patient is a guarantee if the education given is anything but deeply sincere, resoundingly convincing, and perfectly salient. It is under these conditions when the patient performs with "compliance" (a term I don't quite appreciate) and attains desired outcomes.
I dedicate this post to the many hardworking #DPTstudent's that labor to master this important skill.
Almost every patient, regardless of setting, is emotionally unsettled with one very simple fact: they are a patient. Especially in the hospital setting, patients are in a very scary, unpredictable, and undesirable set of circumstances. The most important thing you can do is to make that emotional connection with your patient, let them know you care, assure them that "it's going to be okay", and a sense of calm to their experiential equation.
Perhaps a core necessity to the human condition is the need to be validated; "tell me I'm not crazy!" Especially when a person is in a strange, frightening, and disorienting situation, validation is particularly important. Whether it be pain, fear, anxiety, a sense of debility, or complete lack of situational control - validating these thoughts, emotions, and mental states is important in developing a rapport with the patient and family.
Most of the time, education will include redirecting a person away from a fear-based-preconceived-notion. Other times, education simply requires for any direction to be given - period - the patient feels lost. Regardless of what is required, it is the job of the practitioner to set the tempo from the get-go. Much like force redirection in martial arts, the power of the human mind must be channeled in the right direction for good patient outcomes.
Education would not be education unless the situation was thoroughly explained. On the Twitterverse, I have to give credit to Dr. Joe Brence for consistently conveying that the word "doctor" comes from the Latin verb docēre which means "to teach." Being teachers of health is a core function of a healthcare practitioner. When patients fully understand and grasp their situation due to your teaching, they will also begin to trust your expertise, placing their well-being in your hands.
I feel that reassurance is the best closure for a patient education experience. Start with assurance, end with reassurance. At the end of even the best and most convincing educational discourse, patients are still in the midst of their situation. I feel that it is very important to the human experience for clinicians to wrap up moments of patient education with the reassurance that: "We have a plan. I'll be here every step of the way. Everything is going to be okay." Ultimately, healthcare is a person serving another person; we must respect the humanity of each patient experience to be truly effective educators.
Some Closing Thoughts:
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of this topic is that an excellent patient education experience yields highly satisfied patients. To center my own practice upon this, I always try to answer the three cardinal questions that every patient has:
- What's wrong with me?
- What can you do about it?
- How long will it take?
If you can answer these three questions keeping close with these 5 tenets, your patients will be thoroughly satisfied, will trust you and do just about everything you say, and, will achieve the expected results that you set forth.