Developing an Inpatient Education Program

 Published: November 8, 2018

By: Heather Willden


image of medical professional holding stethescope and clipboard chatting with patient

Equipping your patients with the skills and knowledge to better manage and understand their diseases, such as COPD, establishes a strong partnership in their health care. Developing an inpatient education program helps make this possible. AARC Member Kim Bennion, MsHS, RRT, CH, shares her tips for helping your patients

Discovering the need for inpatient education

According to Bennion, after performing a detailed chart review of COPD frequent hospital visit patients at Intermountain Healthcare in Utah, it was discovered that 60 percent of the COPD patients were still active smokers.

“In 2014, we completely revamped our educational process,” Bennion said.

One of these changes included the use of a ‘readiness ruler.’ This ruler helped begin the discussion and identify a patient’s readiness to even discuss quitting tobacco use.

“Using our Freedom from Tobacco educational booklet, we divided the education into four sections the RT would use to guide the conversation and education with the patient,” Bennion said. “Quite honestly, our RT educators are amazingly relatable with patients.”

Value of inpatient education

“It is our impression that assessing a patient’s motivation and creating a safe environment for honest discussions early and often in both the outpatient, inpatient, and home settings proves so valuable,” Bennion said. “Handing them only an educational booklet has been, quite simply, ineffective.”

Bennion explained that she and her team start education with their first treatment after admission and provide education throughout their time in the hospital.

Benefit for patients

Intermountain participates in the National Committee for Quality Assurance’s Serious Illness Collaborative with 10 other national organizations.

“Providing unique, more intimate advance-care planning discussion one-on-one with patients was only half of the program,” Bennion said. “The second element was to conduct goal attainment scaling with these same patients.”

Bennion then shared a story of one her patients:

One of our patients was a 47-year-old man who was recently admitted and diagnosed with COPD and heart failure who had been previously homeless for 10 years.

We met with him over six times. He chose goals that were attainable but did not initially select tobacco cessation.

Now, with his third quit attempt in four months, he has not smoked in almost three weeks.

When asked what motivated him this time, he said, “I’ve come to love you guys, and I don’t want to be a disappointment. I want to make a difference by setting a better example to our Patient and Family Advisory Panel (PFAP).”

Literally, we cried together. I’m so proud of him! By the way, he now leads our PFAP.

Bennion’s Tips for developing an inpatient education program

  • First, take the time to establish a unique relationship with each patient. Ask them about themselves, their life and family and what things they value.
  • Second, take the time to truly assess a patient’s readiness to quit, and let them guide the education you provide.
  • Finally, never consider it a ‘one and done’ discussion. They will know you care when you follow up with them via phone calls when they are home.

Keep the conversation going

Do you have an inpatient education program? Share your tips and experiences at AARConnect!

Email with questions or comments, we’d love to hear from you.

Heather Willden

Heather Willden is the Director of Governance and Strategic Initiatives for the AARC where she works with state affiliates as the HOD liaison. She also manages DEI efforts and strategic initiatives. Connect with her about these topics by email, AARConnect or LinkedIn. When she's not working, you can find her podcasting with her husband, exploring new hiking trails, photographing, and spending time with her family.

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