If you use informational handouts as a primary education method for your chronic care clinics or nurse sick calls, you may be assuming that your patients understand when they do not. Misinformation or lack of information can sabotage your efforts to improve the health of the patients you serve. Are Your Education Materials Patient-Friendly?
Health literacy, the ability to understand medical information, is a challenge in the standard healthcare setting. According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality “Low literacy is associated with several adverse health outcomes, including low health knowledge, increased incidence of chronic illness, poorer intermediate disease markers, and less than optimal use of preventive health services”.
The patient population that is incarcerated has additional barriers to understanding that should be considered by correctional nurses. Patient interaction may be affected by underlying mental illness, cynicism and even fear of reprisal. Although some of our patients do have higher education levels, research indicates a majority do not have a basic literacy level. How will that impact your patient teaching?
Review your current informational handouts from a low literacy perspective. If you are using prepared information from other sources, you are likely to find medical terminology and complex sentence structure. When education materials from low income clinics were reviewed by nurse researchers in this study, they found a majority were too high for the recommended 5th grade reading level.
HOW TO MAKE Your Education Materials PATIENT-Friendly?
If you have digital versions of your information handouts, you can test readability from this handy website. Preprinted materials can be visually scanned for words with many syllables and medical terminology above grade school level.
Non-English Speaking Patients
Determine the most common languages spoken by your patient population and begin to gather teaching resources in the main languages. Spanish is the most commonly available alternative language for printed materials. You may be challenged if you have a large subpopulation of Ukrainian or Laotian speakers. Using translation apps like Google Translate may be useful in both direct communication with your patient and translating patient education handouts.
Verbally Check for Understanding
When using patient teaching information sheets, always review the information with the patient and then check for understanding. Don’t just ask “Do you understand?” Even a confused person is likely to answer yes. A hurried “Do you have any questions?” is likely to get an automatic “no.” Your patient might think he (or she) understands when, in fact, they do not. Provide a scenario and ask how they would respond. For example, you could ask “So, how would your wound look if you needed to come back to sick call for me to check it?”
Provide A Later Opportunity for Questions and Answers
Patients can be overwhelmed by information and need time to process and adjust. This can be true if you are sharing life-impacting information such as a positive Hepatitis result or a change in treatment plan. Be sure the patient knows how to get back in touch with you to get later questions answered.
Our patient population may come from marginalized communities with limited education, low English skills, low incomes and ethnic or racial minority backgrounds. These characteristics have been shown to be associated with lower literacy levels. We can improve the health outcomes of our patients through the use of education materials that are written at the appropriate level and are understandable.
For more information on providing patient education in the correctional setting, check out The Correctional Nurse Educator class entitled Patient Education for the Correctional Nurse.
Have you created patient education materials for your correctional population? Share your experiences in the comments section of this post.