Health Literacy (Nursing)

by Heide Cygan, DNP, RN

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    00:00 Let's talk about Health Literacy.

    00:05 As nurses, we provide our patients with a lot of information, information that is essential to their health and well-being.

    00:12 But in order to be effective in the way that we deliver that information, it's important that we consider health literacy.

    00:19 Now I'm sure health literacy is a term that you've already heard.

    00:22 So what I'm going to ask you to do is pause the video and write down your definition of health literacy.

    00:28 When we move to the next slide, I'll show you my definition and we can compare the two.

    00:40 Health Literacy is the degree to which individuals have the ability to find, understand, and use information and services to inform health-related decisions and actions for themselves and others.

    00:55 This is Justin. Justin wants to know why it's so important that he become health literate.

    01:01 It's important for us to be health literate because we need to understand our own health status.

    01:07 By being health literate, we know how and when to access healthcare services.

    01:13 When we're health literate, we can use health information to adapt our own health behaviors to make these changes we need to make in order to become more healthy.

    01:23 Being health literate means that Justin would be able to communicate his health needs and collaborate with health professionals.

    01:30 It would also mean that Justin can make informed decisions about his own healthcare and ultimately make decisions that are in alignment not just with his needs but also with his preferences.

    01:43 So, what does it mean to be health literate? Being health literate means more than just being able to read a healthcare brochure.

    01:53 Being health literate means that we can understand and complete complex medical regimens.

    01:59 This could be medication regimens. It could be complex dietary restrictions.

    02:06 Being health literate also means that we can plan necessary lifestyle changes so once we talk to our healthcare professional and we make decisions about our plan of care, we can go home and we can make those necessary changes on our own.

    02:23 Being health literate also means that we're able to make informed health-related decisions.

    02:28 So rather than just endlessly listen to what someone tells us, we're able to take the information that's presented to us, process that, and make our own decisions, our own informed decisions.

    02:42 Being health literate also means that we know how to access care and when to access care.

    02:47 This could be the difference between seeking care in emergency department or waiting a couple days and making an appointment at a primary care office.

    02:57 And ultimately, health literacy means that we are able to not only address our own health concerns, but address health issues within our community, share our knowledge with others around us.

    03:09 So why is it so important to be health literate? Well, those with low health literacy are less likely to get recommended screenings.

    03:18 They are less likely to have control over the chronic diseases.

    03:22 People with low health literacy are more likely to be hospitalized, more likely to report poor health, and ultimately more likely to die.

    03:32 As nurses, it's important for us to understand that health literacy is multidimensional, it's not just what a person knows.

    03:40 In order to understand the health literacy of our patients, we need to first start with culture and beliefs.

    03:45 We need to understand their culture and their beliefs related to health and health behaviors.

    03:51 For example, in someone's culture, do they see a healthcare provider as the ultimate authority? If so, they're probably willing to go along with what you recommend even if it doesn't fit their preferences or even if they don't understand what you're asking them to do.

    04:07 We also have to consider health knowledge.

    04:09 Oftentimes we are throwing so much information at our patients that the sheer amount of information that we're giving them is a barrier to understanding all of that knowledge that we expect them to understand.

    04:21 We also need to consider general literacy.

    04:24 So, this is where we think about the reading level of our patients.

    04:27 Are we providing them with information that is at the appropriate reading level so they can understand what's in front of them? And we also need to think about language and communication.

    04:37 Are we communicating with our patients and their preferred language? Do we have the skills to be able to do so? And if not, do we know how to use an interpreter to meet that need? There are several strategies that we can use to overcome communication barriers.

    04:52 Really what we're talking about here is communicating clearly.

    04:56 The first, strategy is to use everyday words.

    04:59 So instead of saying acetaminophen, call it Tylenol.

    05:03 Instead of saying hypertension, call it high blood pressure.

    05:06 We can also strive to use fewer words.

    05:09 The fewer words we use, the more likely our patients will be to understand what we're saying to them.

    05:14 We can also use active voice.

    05:16 So this means instead of saying a phrase such as "once your medications are administered," we can say "after you take your medicine" or "once you swallow your pills.

    05:27 Also, we ask for feedback and don't just say "Do you understand what I have said to you?" Because most likely what you're going to get in response is "Yes, I understand." What we need to do instead is ask for feedback that shows us that our patients really do understand what we said to them.

    05:43 So we may ask simple questions such as "When are you going to take your medication? How often are you going to take that medication? or "When should you take your pain medication?" By employing these strategies, we can overcome communication barriers and increase health literacy for our patients and populations.

    About the Lecture

    The lecture Health Literacy (Nursing) by Heide Cygan, DNP, RN is from the course Health Promotion Frameworks (Nursing).

    Included Quiz Questions

    1. Adhering to a complex medication regime.
    2. Making lifestyle changes after a new diagnosis.
    3. Knowing when to seek medical attention.
    4. Receiving intravenous medication.
    5. Driving a family member to the hospital.
    1. A 70-year-old client has never had a colonoscopy and has been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.
    2. A client experiencing diabetic ketoacidosis related to improper insulin administration.
    3. A client presenting to the emergency department with an accidental acetaminophen overdose after experiencing a severe headache.
    4. A client started an exercise routine after being diagnosed with type two diabetes.
    5. A client is accidentally given the wrong medication at the pharmacy and immediately notifies the healthcare provider.
    1. “The doctor gave you this medication to treat your high blood pressure.”
    2. “Medication adherence is the key to managing your hypertension.”
    3. “Taking ramipril daily will decrease your systolic and diastolic readings over time.”
    4. “ACE inhibitors are proven to treat what you’re experiencing quickly.”

    Author of lecture Health Literacy (Nursing)

     Heide Cygan, DNP, RN

    Heide Cygan, DNP, RN

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