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The Role of the Modern Patient: Always Learning

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By Nita Pyle, associate director, Patient Education

pated121211.jpgThink about the last time you wanted to learn something. What did you do? Did you attend a lecture? Did you "Google" the topic? How about read a book or magazine? Maybe, take a course?

As adults, we have developed ways of learning that suit us best. Some of us are listeners, some prefer reading and digesting information slowly, and some want that hands-on experience that uses all our senses.

What you really need to know
As patient educators, we know that patients have a preferred learning style. We also know that there are barriers to learning at any particular moment. Your pain level might be too high or you are sick to your stomach. Your brain function seems fuzzy or maybe you don't have your glasses.

Health care professionals know patients are motivated to learn because the content pertains to you and your well-being.

As a patient, you no doubt have been inundated with printed materials to read. Has anyone told you what's really important in that material for you to know and remember? Some of it may be nice to know, but not critical.

Tips to take control

Here are things you might want to consider when you want to learn, need to learn or when it's just not a good time to learn.

  • Bring a highlighter. When you're handed printed materials, ask the person to highlight what's necessary for you to know from that material. If you're reading, highlight what you think is important. Show it to your nurse and ask if she or he agrees. If reading isn't your preferred way of learning, ask if the information is available in another format such as a video, on a website or in a class
  • Be vocal about what you want to learn and what you already know. Sometimes, the information is worth hearing again. As an adult learner, you have a lot of knowledge already. Maybe you don't need that repetition. If you've had an MRI several times, maybe you don't need to know about the whole procedure once again, just the changes since the last time.
  • Reschedule an appointment if the time chosen by the staff for learning is not good for you. Pick a time when you feel better or come back when a family member who can listen for you is present. It's always good to have another set of eyes and ears when receiving new information.
  • Ask for a demonstration. If the content pertains to a skill or equipment use, make certain that you have a chance to hold it, touch it, work with it or practice doing it before you return home. 
  • Be honest. If you're not motivated to learn what the health care professional thinks you need to know at the time you're being taught, tell them. Ask yourself, "On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely am I to do whatever it is the doctor or nurse is telling me?" If your score is below 5, then talk with your health care professional about how you're feeling. Maybe there are other distresses in your life that need attention before you're ready to learn.
Patients need to make informed decisions about their care, develop basic self-care skills, recognize problems and know how to get questions answered.

For more information on Patient Education services, such as education materials, classes, videos and computer-based learning, visit the website, call 713-792-7128 or find them on Facebook.

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