Patient education is an essential part of the health care delivery system. In a medical office or clinic, patient education is defined as “the process that informs, motivates, and helps people adapt and maintain healthful practices and life styles.”
Importance of Patient Education
In your role as a medical assistant you recognize the importance of patient education. Your goals are:
- Assist patients to acquire knowledge and skills that will promote their ability to care for themselves more adequately
- Influence patient’s attitudinal changes from an orientation that emphasizes disease to an orientation that emphasizes health
- Support behavioral changes to the extent that patients are willing and able to maintain their health
Medical assistants, whether they realize it or not, are almost always constantly learning and teaching something. Teaching is a unique skill that is developed through the application of principles of learning. Patient teaching begins with an assessment of the patient’s knowledge. Through this assessment, learning needs are identified. For example, a diabetic patient may have a need to learn how to self-administer an injection. After the learner’s needs have been established, goals and objectives are developed.
Objectives inform the learner of what kind of (learned) behavior is expected. Objectives also assist the medical assistant in determining how effective the teaching has been. These basic principles of teaching/learning are applicable to all patient- education activities, from the simple procedure of teaching a patient how to measure and record fluid intake/output to the more complex programs of behavior modification in situations of substance abuse (i.e., drug or alcohol) or weight control.
As a member of the health care team, medical assistants share a responsibility with all other members of the team to be alert to patient’s educational needs. They must undertake patient teaching only within the limitation of their scope of practice, medical office policies, and their own knowledge and skills while communicating to other team members the need for patient education in areas they are not personally qualified to undertake.
COMMON MEDICAL EMERGENCIES THAT REQUIRE PATIENT EDUCATION AND PROPER COMMUNICATION:
Uncomplicated fainting is the result of blood pooling in dilated veins, which reduces the amount of blood being pumped to the brain. May also result from an underlying medical problem.
Diabetes mellitus is an inherited condition in which the pancreas secretes an insufficient amount of the protein hormone insulin.
Is the lack of glucose in the cells that leads to an increase in metabolic acids in the blood (acidosis) as other substances, such as fats, are metabolized as energy sources. Diabetic ketoacidosis most often results either from forgetting to take insulin or from taking too little insulin to maintain a balanced condition.
Insulin shock results from too little sugar in the blood. It develops when a diabetic exercises too much or eats too little after taking insulin. Signs and symptoms include: pale, moist skin; dizziness and headache; strong, rapid pulse; fainting, seizures, and coma; normal respiration and blood pressure.
Also known as a stroke or apoplexy, is caused by an interruption of the arterial blood supply to a portion of the brain. May be caused by arteriosclerosis or by a clot forming in the brain. Onset is sudden, with little or no warning. The first signs include weakness or paralysis on the side of the body opposite the side of the brain that has been injured.
Is a sever allergic reaction to foreign material. Penicillin and the toxin from bee stings are probably the most common causative agents, although foods, inhalants, and contact substances can also cause a reaction. The most characteristic and serious symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction are loss of voice and difficulty breathing. Other typical signs are giant hives, coughing, and wheezing.
Include angina pectoris, acute myocardial infarction, and congestive heart failure. They occur more commonly in men in the 50 to 60 year age group. Predisposing factors are lack of physical conditioning, high blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, smoking, diabetes, and a family history of heart disease.
This condition is caused by insufficient oxygen being circulated to the heart muscle. It results from a partial occlusion of the coronary artery.
Acute Myocardial Infarction:
Results when a coronary artery is severely occluded by arteriosclerosis or completely blocked by a clot.
Congestive Heart Failure:
Is a condition when a heart suffering from prolonged hypertension, valve disease, or heart disease will try to compensate for decreased function by increasing the size of the left ventricular pumping chamber and increasing the heart rate. A sitting position promotes blood pooling in the lower extremities. If an intravenous line is started, it should be maintained at the slowest rate possible to keep the vein open; an increase in the circulatory volume will worsen the condition.
Are characterized by severe muscle spasms or muscle rigidity of an uncontrolled nature. Epilepsy is the most widely known form of zeizure activity. Epilepsy is characterized by an abnormal focus of activity in the brain that produces severe motor responses or changes in consciousness. It may result from head traum, scarred brain tissue, brain tumors, cerebral arterial occlusion, fever, or a number of other factors.
Grand mal seizures are the more serious type of epilepsy. It may be, but is not always preceded by an aura that its victim soon comes to recognize, allowing time to lie down and prepare for the onset of the seizure.
Petit mal seizure is of short duration and is characterized by an altered state of awareness or partial loss of consciousness and localized muscular contractions. There are now warning and little or no memory of the attack after it is over.
Drowning is a suffocating condition in a water environment. Water seldom enters the lungs in appreciable quantities because, upon contact with fluid, laryngeal spasms occur which seals the airway from the mouth and nose passages.
A psychiatric emergency is defined as a sudden onset of behavioral or emotional responses that, if not responded to, will result in a life-threatening situation. Probably the most common psychiatric emergency is the suicide attempt.
NOTE: Continue only after reading this and the previous lessons!