Sometimes when a patient says they understand a new medication, it’s because they’re reluctant to ask a question they think is silly. It’s your job to take the initiative and overcome that resistance.
Keep It Simple: talk to them in “everyday” language, not technical terms – it’s so easy to get caught up in technical jargon.
“This medicine will reduce the swelling in your knee, and help it heal.”
Get The Family in the Room: for many patients, family members serve as care-givers at home. Seat family members close to you for educational sessions. Make sure they digest the information, techniques, and skills that are needed - especially if they are translating for the patient.
“Who would you like to be included in this teaching-session?”
“Who will be your main care-giver at home?”
Be Empathetic: sometimes small, sincere gestures make the biggest impact.
“I can tell you’ve had a tough time.”
“I can see why you would be discouraged.”
“I can tell you’re disappointed.”
Ask Them to Ask You Questions: one thing I know about human nature is: people love to be asked questions. Give them permission to ask (without being embarrassed) by leading the conversation.
“What questions do you have about this medication?”
“What would you like to ask me about this medication?”
“Many patients wonder how this medicine…” or “I’ve had patients express concerns about… Do you feel that way?”
The Teach-Back Method: politely ask patient to repeat back what you’ve taught him/her. Make the teach-back method a game, make it fun if you can! You don’t want it to be a test that puts stress on patients.
“Mrs. Jones, I want to be really sure that you understand all the important information about this new medicine. May I ask you a few questions?”
If patient’s answers are shaky, ask some questions and clarify.
The Take Away
Cultivate an environment that encourages questions - no concern is foolish in a hospital. We always want our patients to be safe; we have to make absolutely sure that they are understanding what we tell them, rather than just nodding and smiling.
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