Are you new to the field of patient education? Remember these 4 tips.

I remember my first Clinical Nurse Educator job like it was yesterday. I was so eager to learn everything I could about the immunotherapy agent I would be teaching patients and healthcare professionals to use. I love to teach and, looking back, the two most important lessons I can share with you are the art of listening and knowing your audience well. No doubt you already realize the power these have in driving a positive outcome in your education programs.

The greatest mentors I have had in my career are those who utilize their hindsight to enable you to tap into your foresight without fear or hesitation, who embraced failure as a catalyst for growth and opportunity for learning something new. I have compiled a list of tips I hope will be as helpful and encouraging as they were for me.

  1. The power of connecting. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile from a stranger, a kind word, a listening ear, recognizing an honest accomplishment or even the smallest action that demonstrates caring. All of these have the ability to actually transform a patient’s life or journey. Pay attention to their needs.
  2. Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I may remember. Involve me and I learn. Both the US statesman Benjamin Franklin and the Chinese philosopher Confucius have been credited for these words. Regardless, a student learns more by doing than by listening. In our VMS education programs, we emphasize the “teach back” method, which provides the opportunity for the patient to demonstrate that he or she has really absorbed your teaching. This is particularly helpful with a medication requiring a self-injection or perhaps one that has a complicated dosing schedule.
  3. Use foresight to guide, rather than direct. One of the greatest values you offer patients is your ability to see ahead what they cannot see and help them navigate a course to their destination. Be an active part of their health journey, and they will soar.
  4. Resilience is golden. Remind your patients that having resilience is very different than being numb. Resilience provides a channel for patients to feel, fail, express pain, to hurt. Remind them it is ok to fall but, also, be willing to keep going. Life is full of irony. It takes sadness to recognize happiness, noise to appreciate silence, and absence to value presence.

Lastly, I want to leave you with something very profound I learned and try to practice daily in my life as a Clinical Nurse Educator. In her book, Practicing Peace in Times of War, Pema Chodron wrote:

When you open yourself to the continually changing, impermanent, dynamic nature of your own being and of reality, you increase your capacity to love and care about other people and your capacity to not be afraid.

You are forever reminded of how your patients must feel when they are first diagnosed with a rare disease and the fear they are facing of the unknown. Encourage patients to be ambassadors of their health.

By Jennifer Wilson, RN
VMS Contract Clinical Nurse Educator