Patient Education, Some thoughts

Patient Education, Some thoughts

Patient education is about imparting what we as clinicians know to our patient, in order to assist with their decision making or bring out behaviour change.

We’re always taught about the message – how to best phrase it, what words to use and not use – but not the reciever.

This has always seemed silly, because if we’re trying to help someone make a decision about their care, or get them to change their behaviour, what is more important than the person we’re trying to help?

If we’ve got limited time in an appointment, we also want to make sure we’re using our time effectively. Rehashing information that the patient already knows, thinks it irrelevant or didn’t even want is wasting time that could be used so much more effectively.

So I’ve put together 3 key questions I ask myself before I think about providing education. They are:

1. What does the patient already know?
This tells us not only what we don’t need to cover, but also highlights some misconceptions we may need to correct and/or may impact how the patient recieving the education we’re about to give them.

2. What does the patient want to know more about?
Understanding what a patient would find valuable to make the best decisions for them is invaluable and helps us spend time addressing things they want to know, not covering things they know isn’t important to them or their situation!

3. What does the patient expect from this appointment?
Does the patient expect us to provide education today or not? Are they ready to recieve information? How much are they prepared to listen to?

We’re all practitioners with heaps of information we want to share with our patients because we think it will make a positive impact on their life. But not all of us are in place where we can or are ready to listen. So unless we want to come across like our parents providing an unwanted improptu lecture, make sure your patient is ready and expecting education. If they are’t we can do heaps more with our time!

How do we make sure of this as well as prepare our patients for the fact we’re going to talk a lot? Just ask them!

“Would you find it helpful for me to tell you more about this?”
“What do you want to know from me?”

Alex Murray Podiatrist

Alex Murray is a Podiatrist working in private practice and the founder of website Making Sense in Podiatry. He's passionate about helping other clinicians make sense of evidence and clinical practice with a core philosophy of exploring the complexity of human beings, embracing the uncertainty of clinical practice, and avoiding overly reductionist thinking. In addition to his undergraduate degree from La Trobe, he also holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Sports and Exercise Medicine from the University of Otago. He has experience with both national and international athletes and has recently transitioned to focusing primarily on helping the general population and local athletes manage their pain and achieve their goals.

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