Strategies for Incorporating the Concepts of Patient Teaching

Students in library studying

Patient education is an important part of the professional role of the registered nurse. “It is based on a set of theories, on research findings, and on skills that must be learned and practiced” (Redman, 2007, p. 1). It is an essential part of the art of nursing and should be included as one of the major interventions planned for each patient or family member.

Nursing curricula are bursting at the seams with concepts and content. There is little time to incorporate the principals of patient education, and faculty have little time to develop and implement creative ideas for helping students learn and practice the concepts of teaching. Below, are some ideas for integrating patient education themes throughout a curriculum.

1) At the beginning of the nursing program, nursing students need to learn how to assess the patient’s need to learn. What does the patient/family already know? Where is the gap in knowledge?

  • Group activity: When learning about a topic, have students identify questions they would want to ask a patient/family member before writing the Education Plan for the patient.

2) The next step in the education process is to assess the motivation of the patient/family. Throughout the nursing program, have students work through case studies and identify whether the patient/family would be motivated to learn at any particular time. For example, a patient getting ready to go into surgery would not be motivated to learn because of the anxiety the patient is experiencing at that time.

  • Group activity: In the very first clinical course, play a game with the students. Divide the students in half. Each side would form a line. One side would be for patients that are motivated to learn. The other side would be for patients who are not motivated to learn. Go down the line, one at a time, and list off the patients that are or are not motivated to learn. Each student gets five seconds to name their patient. Take turns with who goes first: patient motivated to learn, not motivated to learn, not motivated to learn, motivated to learn, and so on. If they cannot think of anything, they must sit down.
Motivated to LearnNot Motivated to Learn
7 months pregnantPatient in labor
Week before surgeryAn hour before surgery
Three days after diagnosis of DiabetesImmediately following Diabetes diagnosis

3) When it’s time to teach the patient, the first step is to set objectives.

  • Group activity: Develop a teaching plan for an assigned medical problem diagnosed for a patient (e.g., diabetes). Have the students identify realistic, measurable objectives that can be accomplished as outcomes of learning. Make sure the students include the patient as a participant in writing the learning objectives!

4) Now it is time to teach! But, what considerations should be important to the students as they are designing the teaching plan?

  • Developmental considerations — When developing the Teaching Plan project, have the students write suggested revisions to the plan for each developmental stage through adulthood.
  • Sociocultural considerations — Include cultural variations in the Teaching Plan. What parts of the plan would need to change if the patient were from Mexico? From China? What parts of the plan would need to be altered for a patient from a very low socioeconomic background? What if the patient has special needs (elderly, developmentally delayed, homeless, etc.)?

5) Finally, the teaching plan must be evaluated.

  • Have the students try the plan in a role-play for the class. They would teach the patient and then ask for a return demonstration. Have the students write the role-play as they are writing their Teaching Plan.
  • Have students do impromptu teaching during simulation scenarios. In each case, the students should start by assessing for the gap in knowledge, creating a quick objective or two, and delivering a short lesson. They may not have time to evaluate, but they could discuss how they would evaluate learning during the debriefing session following the scenario.
  • Finally, have each individual student develop teaching plans for real patients for whom they have provided care in the hospital. These can be presented in a post-clinical setting where they can be critiqued by peers.


Redman, B.K. (2007). The practice of patient education: A case study approach, 10th ed. Mosby Elsevier: St. Louis.