Patient Teaching

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Teaching patients and families about Inflammatory Bowel Disease and living with this devastating illness is a crucial aspect of providing care. In the hospital in particular, health professionals need to provide endless information about medications, procedures, tests, treatments and special instructions.

The reality is, we also need to go beyond the hospital stay and prepare patients and families as best as possible to cope with the changes and challenges they may face in day to day living once they go home. While community resources are available, it is very important to be effective teachers and help facilitate learning before discharge.

In order to be effective teachers and ensure learning is occurring, it is important to have some knowledge about adult learning and consider adult learning principles in your approach to caring for these individuals. The following is an outline of the principles of adult learning and strategies that will help you in the teaching process.

Adult Learning Principles

Learning is:

  • a process

  • an integral part of living

  • a consequence of living

  • initiated by the learner

  • restructuring of previous knowledge

  • co-operative and collaborative


Learning is best:

  • when it occurs in the whole person:
    • cognitive
    • affective
    • psychomotor
  • when it is relevant to the situation
  • when it focuses on tasks or problems

Other considerations to keep in mind:

  • people bring a lifetime of experience

  • developmental stages influence adult learning

  • people learn in a variety of ways

  • teacher and learners share responsibility for learning

Strategies for Teaching

  • It is important that our patients have respect for us as health care providers and that we have respect for our patients. We must be positive, have an empathetic concern for the individuality of the learner.

  • We need to empower our patients. Empowering our patients will allow them to recognize and develop their own abilities in order that they can meet their own needs, solve their own problems and mobilize their own resources to feel in control of their own lives.

  • We need to create an environment that is conducive to learning. Ensure that your patient is free from pain and nausea, is rested and alert. Learning can be emotionally exhausting.

  • Establish privacy, limit noise and disruption and most importantly give yourself the time to teach.

  • Avoid prolonged teaching situations. Introduce the information slowly, allow accomplishment and reinforce all teaching steps.

  • Set mutual goals. Both you and your patient need to agree on the learning goals.

  • Draw on your patient’s past experiences. Ask how your patient best learns. Is it through verbal repetition, or does he respond best to written material or picture format? Make use of all forms of teaching material and methods.

    Involve family members or friends for support. They can be instrumental in encouraging and helping to reinforce learning material.

  • Allow your patient to make mistakes. Learning takes time. Humans do not readily gain comfort or confidence with new material.

  • Encourage and praise your patient with accomplishments whether it be learning a new task or acquiring a new skill.

  • Take into consideration your patient’s developmental and emotional stage, their physical limitations, culture and family dynamics. That entails truly knowing your patient which can only come with continuity of care and caregiver.

  • Evaluate your teaching. Ask the questions and be aware of your patient’s verbal and nonverbal responses.

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