Patient Ed. 103

-from the film, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

In retrospect my teaching style had always left a little to be desired. Historically, when I would give presentations in college, I presented a lot of material quickly and repeated myself often. I spoke as if I were on a stage, demanding attention without earning it. I thought I would be able to keep the learners attention by being a bit animated while offering an abundance of nuanced information.

Later, ten years removed from speaking in front of large groups about subjects they never cared about, I found myself using the same techniques with patients who were actually invested in what I had to say.

. . . .

Patients require more than just information and they deserved better than a therapist who was simply throwing as many facts at them as possible. Patients are not playing trivial pursuit, but are seeking relief from their symptoms; they require care from a professional with wisdom and knowledge to share, not just information handed out quickly like bread in a soup kitchen.

But knowledge is not a result merely of filtering or algorithms. It results from a far more complex process that is social, goal-driven, contextual, and culturally-bound. We get to knowledge — especially “actionable” knowledge — by having desires and curiosity, through plotting and play, by being wrong more often than right, by talking with others and forming social bonds, by applying methods and then backing away from them, by calculation and serendipity, by rationality and intuition, by institutional processes and social roles.(1)

The goal of patient education is to serve the patient in such a way that they are able to implement an action that results in a positive impact on something for which they seek care. All too often though, clinicians mistake speaking for teaching and the dispersal of information as education. It is clear…they still have a lot to learn.

So do I.


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