Developing an effective teaching style

Your teaching style refers to the personal way in which you interact with a patient to provide teaching. Nurses who are effective teachers usually have a teaching style that includes establishing and maintaining a helping relationship, being an active listener, and knowing how to ask effective questions.

There are several techniques you can use to help establish and maintain the helping relationship that is foundation of the teaching-learning partnership. Show your respect for the patient as an individual by making sure that you treat each patient as a unique and worthwhile human being. Establish and maintain a helping relationship. Help the patient develop confidence in your concern and abilities. Demonstrate that you accept the patient for who he or she is. Be sincere-make sure your words and actions match. For example, if you say that you will be back in 15 minutes to give the patient pain medication, do so, or let the patient know how long you might be delayed. This type of communication lets the patient know that he or she can depend on you to keep your word.

To become an active listener, start by maintaining eye contact to let the patient know you’re interested in what he or she says and that you intend to pay attention. Look for nonverbal messages while you listen to verbal messages, and assess whether or not the patient’s nonverbal behavior is consistent with what he or she is saying. If not, inquire further into what the patient’s concerns are. Don’t allow interruptions, such as speaking before the patient is finished, or answering a call or pager. Such interruptions may result in the patient deciding you are too busy to attend to his or her needs. Respond to the patient’s questions and concerns in a warm, empathetic manner that encourages continued dialogue.

To use questions effectively, use open-ended rather than closed or simple „yes/no“ questions. For example, asking a patient, „Do you know how to take your medication“ is a closed question that will not yield much information. The open-ended version of this question is „Can you tell me in your own words how you should take your medication?“ Asking a patient, „How did you sleep last night“ is another example of an open ended question that gives the patient the opportunity to provide details about his or her sleep pattern that are important for you to know. Nurses may also inadvertently ask questions that patients perceive as intimidating. For example, a nurse learns on a return outpatient visit that the patient has not followed the instructions he or she was given. If the nurse asks, „Why didn’t you follow the doctor’s instructions,“ the patient may feel intimidated and limit further communication with the nurse. A less intimidating version of the same question that is likely to keep communication going is „Can you tell me what stopped you from following the doctor’s instructions?“

Using adult learning principles