It is vital to take time to assess the family’s structure and style in order to formulate an effective teaching plan. Getting to know your patient’s family and the role they will play in health care management will save a great deal of time in the long run. Treatment plans developed without input from the patient and family are often doomed to failure. As a result, the health care team spends valuable additional time going back to assess the family and often learn about strengths and barriers that were present all along. Both the patient and family members need to tell their story about the illness and the impact it is having on their lives. Try to give them time to share their perceptions about the problems the illness is causing. By taking time to listen to the patient and his family, you are building the trusting relationship that is the basis of patient and family teaching.
A good family assessment requires astute observation skills and the ability to be an active listener. Assessment data can be obtained anytime health care professionals interact with patients and families. Gathering information about family structure, function, and needs does not have to be restricted to structured interviews. Anytime the family is present; you can obtain more information about the family and their role in the patient’s health care management. Informal conversations with the patient and family while you are passing medications, adjusting an intravenous rate, or giving a tube feeding can yield data that will help you complete the family picture. Table 9 shows areas of family assessment that are important to know. Learning the answers to these questions will help you immensely in developing an effective teaching-learning partnership with the patient and his or her family.
Areas of Family Assessment
|What is the family like?
What resources are available to the family?
What are the family’s educational background, lifestyle, and beliefs?
How does the family seem to function?
What is the family’s understanding of the current health care problem?
What are the patient and family’s teaching needs?
Source: Rankin, S.H., & Stallings, K.D. (1996). Patient Education: Issues, Principles, Practices, 3rd ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott-Raven, 128-129.