Rethinking patient education


Ann-Louise Caress, Research Assistant, University of Manchester, Department of Nursing, Stopford Building, Oxford Road, Manchester M13 9PT.


The aim of this paper is to critically examine and challenge some of the assumptions which underpin the research and non-research based literature on patient education. Doubts are expressed concerning the transferability of theories of adult learning to patient education; and concern is expressed over the imbalance in the literature where emphasis is placed on the psychological benefits of teaching, rather than physical outcomes. In the light of the available evidence which suggests that nurses are not ‘good patient teachers’ the case is made to support the suggestion that patient education should become the responsibility of specialist nurses. In addition, computer-assisted learning (CAL) is proffered as the solution to a number of the problems facing patient educators. CAL is seen as a means of empowering the patient, rather than the nurse to take control, and this is viewed as a positive move in the direction of self-care. The paper concludes by suggesting that CAL might be used with good effect by patients with particular learning difficulties; for example the blind or partially sighted, and people who are illiterate or have a low reading ability.