Nursing studies

How to relay complex information to patients

As a student you need to practise breaking complicated information down into ‘comprehensible chunks’.
communicating

As a student you need to practise breaking complicated information down into comprehensible chunks.

Nurses play a vital role in helping patients understand what is happening to them, so it is important that you get into the habit of using clear communication and checking for understanding.

Part of this process is being aware of your patients level of health literacy, defined as the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions.

Breaking it down

As a student you have to learn to decipher the complex language of medicine, as well as how to relay information and medical terms in ways that your patients understand. At first this

...

As a student you need to practise breaking complicated information down into ‘comprehensible chunks’.


With practise, communicating complex medical language in a clear way
can start to feel like second nature. Picture: Getty

Nurses play a vital role in helping patients understand what is happening to them, so it is important that you get into the habit of using clear communication and checking for understanding.

Part of this process is being aware of your patients’ level of health literacy, defined as ‘the degree to which individuals have the capacity to obtain, process and understand basic health information and services needed to make appropriate health decisions’.

Breaking it down

As a student you have to learn to decipher the complex language of medicine, as well as how to relay information and medical terms in ways that your patients’ understand. At first this may seem a daunting prospect, but with practice this skill can start to feel like second nature.

Try summarising paragraphs from a nursing or medical text book in just a couple of sentences. If you do this as an exercise with one of your classmates, you can check for clarity and understanding. You can also practise with other types of information, such as news reports. The aim is to develop your ability to break information down into comprehensible chunks.

It is also worth noting how you feel when you don’t understand what someone says, and using this to inform your communication style. Patients feel vulnerable enough in a healthcare setting; your role is to gain their trust and not alienate them.

Tips for communicating clearly

  • Don’t make assumptions: You need to adapt information to your patients’ level of understanding, but make the assessment with an open mind. Your patient may be a retired doctor, but you can’t assume they will understand what you are talking about.
  • People learn in different ways: Your patients’ will have varying methods for retaining knowledge. Some will prefer visual diagrams or bulleted lists and others will need more in-depth verbal or written information. Ask what helps.
  • Always check for understanding: Most people don’t like admitting to a lack of understanding. Use open questions and encourage your patient to reflect back what they have heard. Avoid abbreviations and jargon.
  • Where possible, minimise distractions: To promote concentration try to speak to your patients in a quiet area of the ward. Though not always practical, it is especially important when delivering distressing news or seeking informed consent.
  • Treat your patient as an individual: Though you are becoming used to medical terms, they may have an emotional impact for some people. Most people lose concentration when they become emotional.

 


Mandy Day-Calder is a freelance writer and life/health coach

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