Friday, October 28, 2016

Health Literacy

Now that I work in the hospital, I feel that my eyes have been opened to so many different parts of nursing. Sometimes, I feel like a brand new nurse, experiencing this for the first time. One of the most amazing parts is the education. I don’t think that I’ve ever worked anywhere that focuses so much on keeping their staff educated and up to date on evidenced-based practices. I’m not complaining. I’m actually incredibly grateful.

Part of my training required me to watch a video on something called health literacy. They interviewed several patients, some of who were educated, but who didn’t understand their health. Why? Because healthcare providers have a whole new language.

I didn’t even think about how many words and phrases I use that just don’t make sense to people who aren’t entrenched in the medical field. Even something as simple as medications can become confusing for the patient, especially if it isn’t explained in a way that they can understand.

When I was in high school, I started having really bad abdominal pain. It was excruciating, and to the point where I didn’t want to eat. Finally, my mom took me to the doctor and they did a typical exam which included an x-ray. One of the questions the doctor asked me was about my last bowel movement. I was seventeen, and I had no idea what that was, but my mom and the doctor acted like I should, so I told them that I had one the day before. Then I had the x-ray, which showed that I had extreme constipation. I didn’t have an obstruction yet, but quite a bit of buildup.

Later, my mom asked me why I said I’d had a bowel movement when I obviously hadn’t. I admitted that I didn’t know what that was. Then she told me that if I didn’t know, I should have asked.
It’s an experience I completely forgot about until I watched the video for work. Patients admitted that they had no idea what their diagnoses were, or what medications they were taking. They didn’t want to admit that they were confused, so they didn’t say anything.

It happens so much more than I realize. I even did it at one point. It’s so important that we ask. And it’s so important for healthcare workers to educate their patients in a way that they can understand.