How to Make a Nursing Patient Teaching Plan

A nurse is chatting with a doctor.
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The nursing patient teaching plan is the first step to educating clients and their families about self-care, a specific condition and other medical needs. Even though you have a thorough knowledge of how the body works and medical terminology, patients may have little to no idea of how to care for themselves after they are discharged. Carefully teaching them what they'll need to know, in a way they can understand, can help the recovery process and provide reassurance.

1 Language Level

Think back to the time before you learned all of that medical jargon in nursing school. Unless that patient is a medical professional herself, using scientific terms is something to avoid. When providing a verbal or written teaching plan, frame it for a sixth- to eighth-grade reading level, according to the University Hospital of Newark, New Jersey's website. For example, instead of talking about a fracture of the patient's tibia, use simple wording such as "broken leg."

2 Assessment for Education

Before educating the patient on her post-discharge needs, assess her medical condition as well as her ability and willingness to learn. Review the patient's chart and talk to any other medical personnel who have treated her. Educating her on her at-home needs means knowing her complete situation, all of the issues potentially involved and the details of her after-care plan. For example, her primary physician may have prescribed medications that she'll need to know when to take, but at the same time her physical therapist may have also made an at-home exercise plan you'll need to address. Do your own evaluation of her ability to learn and understand what you're teaching. Some patients may have mental disabilities that make acquiring new information a challenge, and others may feel depressed or unwilling to learn.

3 Areas to Include

Not every patient teaching plan looks the same. Some patients need coaching on equipment or supplies they'll be using at home, others may need to know signs to look for that indicate a problem, while others may need medications or diet specifications. Patients recovering from knee surgery, for example, may need to know what type of pain medication to use, how often to take medication, how to change dressings on the incision area and the schedule and components of his physical rehabilitation plan.

4 Challenges to Education

A patient teaching plan isn't a one-size-fits-all tool. You may run into challenges that result from a patient's situation, age, culture or language. With a non-English speaking patient, adjust your plan to overcome the language barrier by finding a translator, preferably another medical professional to help you to get the key points across. Some patients may also have cultural differences that make adaptions to your teaching plan necessary. A patient's cultural values may make her feel uncomfortable discussing physical matters or may make plans for a specific diet a struggle to teach.

Based in Pittsburgh, Erica Loop has been writing education, child development and parenting articles since 2009. Her articles have appeared in "Pittsburgh Parent Magazine" and the website PBS Parents. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh's School of Education.