Patient education – lost in translation

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The one constant thing I keep encountering is the lack of education given to the (our) patients and their families. Patients and their loved ones are scared and confused the majority of the time. It’s always our job to lessen those fears and eliminate their confusion, yet we as nurses (heck most health care professionals) miss the bus on this one.

Maybe it’s not enough time? Maybe it’s not enough effort? Resources? Information? I really don’t know.

I do know that when I spend those dedicated few minutes with my patient and their family talking about their care, our plan of attack, my goals for my shift, what I’ll be doing, not doing, the ‘why’s’ for the interventions I’m performing, explaining those ‘numbers’ on the monitor, and trying to lay out their overall plan of care – they sit their like it’s their first school lesson.

“Deer in headlight” look.

Sitting still in their seat.

Watching my every move.

They ask questions, I answer them to the best of my knowledge. If I can’t answer the questions I investigate and give them direction. We have a dialogue about the do’s and don’ts of their care. Why this.. Why not that.

It’s an enriching and engaging interaction.

Everybody wins.

They get to feel more comfortable about all that happens in the room. They aren’t startled when alarms go off, or ancillary staff comes in to draw blood (this patient was on a heparin drip).

I get to understand and better appreciate their view point as well as get a ‘feel’ for their willingness to contribute to their care. Will they comply, will they be uncooperative, will they be engaging, etc.

A certain level of trust is established in those few and finite minutes that we as nurses rarely get to spend with our patients.

I wonder if that’s part of the overall problem? Those few minutes make all the difference when determining success and/or failure. I think that interaction helps and hinders their overall experience, their state of health AND ultimately their length of stay!

In a world of health care fraught with ‘adding more to the to-do laundry list’, we spend less and less time at the bedside.

How can we get those few minutes back?

How can we prevent this loss in translation?

Hmm…

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3 thoughts on “Patient education – lost in translation

  1. well stated, Sean.
    I try to take time at the beginning of the shift with each patient to discuss our mutual goals for the day. And to say goodbye at the end. And I am saddened by how many times these two simple acts do not get done.

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