Using adult learning principles

Your adult patient will probably want to exercise self-direction. Adults like to make their own decisions and have their decisions respected. Therefore, listen to what patients believe they need to learn and how they feel they would best learn it. Make your teaching realistic. Adults usually want what they learn to have an immediate practical value, to meet a perceived need, and to fit their budget and time constraints. If you don’t make the relevance of what you’re teaching evident, the patient may not pay attention. Give patients credit for their life experiences and invite them to share what they know. Acknowledge that the patient may have strong and stressful feelings about being in a learning situation. Many adults have good or bad feelings associated with prior learning. Your patient may have had poor experiences with authority figures such as teachers or may have a lifetime love of learning. Observe the patient’s reaction to different learning situations and try to determine his or her comfort level with teaching and learning. Correct any mistakes the patient makes in a sensitive way. If corrections are needed, make them tactfully, pointing out what the patient understands or performs correctly first; then correct what he or she misunderstands or performs incorrectly. Relate new ideas to current knowledge. Adults learn best and retain more when they can connect what they’re learning to something they already know. From your assessment, you have a picture of the patient’s work situation, hobbies, and interests. Try to tie your teaching into your what your patient is already comfortable with. Remember that conflicting information slows learning. If your patient has seen you do a procedure one way and another nurse does it another way, he or she may be confused about how to proceed. It is ideal to have teaching done by the same person; however, when this isn’t realistic or possible, focus on the key points and stress that there can be adaptations to tasks and procedures. Recognize that learning can cause anxiety. The procedures you teach may seem routine to you, but to your patient, they’re unusual and quite possibly frightening. Allow enough time for learning and practice, and encourage the patient and family to actively participate. Provide a comfortable physical and emotional learning environment. The following are the 4 Cs-the characteristics of an excellent teacher:

  • Confidence
  • Competence
  • Communication
  • Caring

Having confidence means that you know how to select what to teach, how to prepare an effective teaching plan, and how to arrange an appropriate learning environment. Nurses who are confident teachers are experts about how to select the main points of information that are most important for the patient to learn.

Being competent means that you ensure the patient’s safety during teaching sessions and you provide the patient with written instructions that are individualized for his or her care, including letting the patient know what to do if problems arise.

Being a good communicator means that you know how to give clear directions, how to use simple pictures or models for instruction, and that you are able to explain information in words the patient understands. Nurses who are good communicators know how to both speak and listen well. They are not concerned with impressing the patient and family with how much they know. Instead, they get to the point and involve the patient by finding out what the patient already knows. They stop and ask questions to make sure the patient understands the instructions. They are comfortable talking to the patient’s family and involve them in the teaching plan. They often use a „show and tell“ approach. They are comfortable talking to the patient’s family and involve them in teaching.

Being a caring teacher means that you demonstrate empathy, you are sensitive to the patient’s concerns and needs, you ensure adequate time so that the patient doesn’t feel pressured or rushed, and you provide continuous support and encouragement. Nurses who are caring teachers have the ability to put themselves in the patient’s shoes and consider how the patient might feel. They understand the patient’s concerns about safety, pain, appearance, and financial costs, and they help the patient address these concerns. They are encouraging and provide enough time for the patient to be successful.