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Keywords:

  • patient education;
  • cultural competence;
  • readability;
  • literacy;
  • informed consent;
  • health literacy

Nurses and nurse midwives have historically considered patient education one of their most important responsibilities. Increasingly, however, appropriate and comprehensive patient education has become more difficult to accomplish. There are many reasons for this, including the huge influx of clients of varying cultures into virtually all health care systems across the United States, the lack of time available for patient education in tightly scheduled managed care visits, the dearth of educational materials written at appropriate readability levels and/or in languages other than English, and the lack of reimbursement for time spent on patient education. In addition, many providers might not have specific training in the provision of patient education or in the development of appropriate health educational materials for the population they serve. This article discusses these issues, suggesting also that there are ethical dilemmas inherent in the provision of some aspects of patient education.