By Mercy's Madelynn Innes
Research shows that patients remember and understand less than half of what clinicians explain to them. Mercy Hospital Springfield's cardiothoracic and vascular post-surgical nursing team on 4D is all too familiar with this unfortunate fact.
“Even though you tell a patient and give them written instructions, there’s a pretty good chance they may not have absorbed it,” said Nurse Manager Clark Smith.
That’s why 4D has made a few changes. Since last summer, they’re using a patient education technique called “teach-back.”
To ensure patients fully understand how to properly care for their incisions before they go home, Clark said, “Our discharge nurses educate the patient about self care at home, and then they ask the patient to teach back the information.”
Oftentimes, they try to include a son, daughter or other close family member in these discussion. They ask the patient or caregiver to tell them where incisions are located and to teach them how to correctly care for these incisions at home.
“Using the teach-back method gives us the chance to find out if they understand and can take care of themselves after they leave our care,” Clark said. “If the patient is unable to appropriately answer the questions, the nurse immediately reassesses their learning needs and their support system.” Usually, Clark added, “The patient – and often their caregiver – just needs a little additional education before being able to accurately answer the questions.”
As simple as the teach-back method sounds, there’s proof that it’s working. Since it was implemented last summer, Clark said, “Last month, we had zero readmissions due to surgical infections. They’ve consistently been lower than before.”
A year ago, 4D saw up to seven readmissions a month due to surgical infections. That’s when Clark started researching the benefits of the teach-back method, and the unit soon decided to implement the communication method.
“This is just one of the methods we’re doing to improve our patients’ understanding of their health care instructions,” added Clark. “Some of the methods we’re using may not be as beneficial with some other patient populations, but it certainly seems to be making a difference with ours.”