How to Educate Patients

How to Educate Patients
Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger / Unsplash

As a nurse, most of your patients won’t have a background in health or medicine.

Patients in the hospital need to be educated about their medical and health needs. Most of the time, they’re eager students — they want to know what they need to do to get healthy again.

We’re not talking about teaching in the formal sense.

Think of it more like informing the patient and providing them with what they need to know.

Which, really, is what educating is all about.

Here are some tips and tricks for you to use when informing or educating patients.


These days, nearly everyone has a video player in their pocket in the form of a smartphone.

This makes video both a great teaching tool and a great reference tool since people can watch the videos wherever they are and as many times as they need to.

There’s a good chance that whatever you need to demonstrate already exists in video form.

YouTube is always a good place to start when looking for videos.

These videos make it easier to teach more involved or multi-step procedures thanks to the ability to replay the video as many times as necessary.

The proper method for dressing changes, for example, is a good use of video as a learning aid.

Hands-On Learning

Hands-on learning is a great tool to show both patients and family members how to do post-hospital care routines.

This is especially good for patients who are visual learners.

You can demonstrate what they need to do, then watch as they do the procedure and suggest ways that they can improve.

This feedback and practice make for a complete learning experience.

Being present while the patient performs the procedure, whether it’s injecting medication or changing dressings, can help validate that they’re doing it correctly.

This is a great method for showing people how to do insulin injections or administer other medications.

Written Materials

Some people learn better by reading instructions.

Other people like to have reference materials on hand to refer to after being shown how to do something.

Written instructions are great for either learning style.

You can go through the material with the person to make sure they understand everything before sending them home with the materials.

There are, however, some things to beware of.

You need to ensure that the person is capable of comprehending the instructions.

This includes reading level, as well as memory capabilities.

There are many forms of written instruction, from checklists to flyers, to more involved and longer reading material.

Cause and Effect

Cause and effect are, quite simply, explaining that “if you do this, then this will happen.”

This can be a good method to use when answering why a patient should be doing something.

This is also a good approach for teaching patients the importance of living a healthy lifestyle after leaving the hospital.

This approach is useful for showing someone the effects of smoking and driving home the importance of quitting.

Telling someone that smoking is bad likely won’t help - smokers are aware that smoking is not a healthy activity.

But showing a person a healthy lung versus a smoker’s lung - the cause and effect of smoking - will help to drive home the point.

Group Discussion

When you need to teach a few patients the same thing, a group discussion is a good way to do it.

This is also a good approach when the patient’s family also needs to hear the information.

With multiple people asking questions, everybody gains from the information shared.

A group discussion can also reveal topics you need to focus more on with the patient to improve their understanding of the material.

Discharge Instructions

Writing out discharge instructions is a great way to ensure your patient has access to everything they need to know after leaving the hospital.

This is especially useful when there is a lot of information for the patient to remember.

When using this method, it’s a good idea to go through everything with the patient, rather than just giving them the information.

This way, they can ask any questions and get clarification on things they don’t understand.


Models are a great way to educate patients about internal organs or other difficult things to visualize.

Many models have removable parts so that their insides can be easily viewed.

This is a useful method when you need to explain planned procedures or provide further information.

Question and Answer

This is pretty straightforward.

The patient asks questions, and you provide answers.

Often, this is used along with other strategies.

It can begin with a short information session or as a follow-up.

Sometimes, you can use this method as an opportunity to help the patient simply by asking if they have any questions.

Sometimes, they may have questions they aren’t comfortable asking another healthcare provider or have a question they thought of after the doctor or another nurse has left.

Opening with this gives them an opportunity to get answers.

Often, just giving a person the opportunity to ask questions can lead to educational opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise be addressed.

The way the information is passed along isn’t as important as making sure the information is delivered.

Whatever method is used, as long as it helps the patient understand what they need to know, is a good method.

Do you have questions about training or certifications?

You can have those questions answered by enrolling in one of ProMed’s online courses.