Nurse helping elderly patient

A Step-by-Step Guide to Patient Counseling

Learn about the procedures, steps, risks, and requirements for patient counseling

Nurse helping elderly patient

Patient counseling is a universal skill possessed by nurses around the world. To create an ideal environment for their patients, nurses should develop a supportive relationship with them. Patients who are provided with the proper knowledge regarding their condition can make vital positive changes to their health, alter their lifestyles, and remain self-sufficient.

This article will focus on the art of patient counseling, an essential task for nurses and other medical staff. Mastering this skill may open doors in your career and contribute to higher rates of patient satisfaction.

(Click here to see our full list of the most common nursing duties and responsibilities).

Nurses assist their patients in several ways. Depending on the work environment, patient counseling may be their most vital task. Education often has the power to create successful outcomes and enhance patient safety.

If you’re studying to become a Licensed Vocational Nurse (LVN), Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN), or Registered Nurse (RN), it is vital that you learn more about patient counseling in a medical environment.

Definition of Patient Counseling

Patient counseling is the practice of educating patients on how to improve their health. If patients become actively involved in their care, they may be more likely to engage in significant lifestyle changes.

Some additional benefits of patient counseling include:

  • Prevents serious medical conditions (i.e., obesity, diabetes, heart disease).
  • Reduces the risk of complications by coaching patients about medications, lifestyle modification, and self-monitoring devices (i.e., glucose meter or blood pressure monitor).
  • Reduces the number of patients who are readmitted to hospitals.
  • Helps patients retain their independence by learning self-sufficiency.

How Long Does It Take to Counsel a Patient?

The amount of time it takes to counsel a patient can vary on a case-by-case basis. Patient counseling usually takes place after the doctor has seen the patient and lasts about 10-15 minutes on average. In some cases it can take significantly more time, especially if you’re speaking with family members or caretakers.

Who Provides Patient Counseling?

Nurses play an essential role in patient counseling. You could say it’s one of the most significant responsibilities held by a nurse. The timeline for active patient education starts from the moment patients are admitted to the hospital and continues until they are discharged.

Nurses can take advantage of various opportunities during a patient’s visit to educate them about self-care. This instruction may focus on injecting insulin, bathe an infant, or changing a colostomy bag. They can also teach patients how to recognize the warning signs of an illness or injury, what to do, and who to contact when those types of health issues arise.

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Training Requirements for Patient Counseling

When it comes to patient counseling, most licensed professionals such as Registered Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses will typically learn how to perform this vital task throughout educational programs and medical training.

Patient counseling is a component of many Vocational or Practical Nursing programs. You can expect to demonstrate this skill on the NCLEX exam as well.

Close up of clasped hands

Patient Counseling Procedure

A Detailed Guide to Counseling a Patient

By reviewing the following steps, you can begin to learn more about the process of patient counseling. Like any other skill, counseling requires both time and practice to master.

Patient Counseling Steps

The following are some of the general guidelines you should follow when counseling or educating a patient:

  1. Effective patient education should begin from the moment patients are admitted to the time they are discharged. Nurses should take advantage of any appropriate opportunity to educate their patients about self-care.
  2. Without proper education, patients may resume bad habits when they return home or forget to manage their medical condition. To educate patients, nurses should instruct patients on subjects like the following:
    • Self-care steps they must take.
    • Why they need to maintain self-care.
    • How to recognize warning signs.
    • What to do if a problem occurs.
    • Who to contact if they have any questions.
  3. Some patients lack healthcare knowledge. Nurses should carefully assess their patients to determine the best way to educate them. Once the patient assessment has been completed, you can provide instruction by using the following:
    • Common words and phrases.
    • Reading materials written at a sixth-grade level.
    • Video.
    • Audio.
  4. Nurses should perform a demonstration and ask their patients to repeat the information or perform a hands-on demonstration.
  5. If a patient has a developmental disorder or literacy limitation, change your strategy as needed. Some patients may respond better to visual content than plain text. Always keep these questions in mind while assessing patients:
    • What is their level of education?
    • Can they read and comprehend directions for medications, diet, procedures, or treatments?
    • What is the best teaching method for them? Audio, visual, or a hands-on approach?
    • What language does the patient speak?
    • Does the patient want basic information or in-depth instructions?
    • How well does the patient see and hear?

Psychiatric nurse assisting a patient

Pro Tips for Mastering the Art of Patient Counseling

It can be difficult simplifying medical terminology enough to allow your patient to understand their own condition. Preventing re-hospitalization is a big responsibility, especially when you consider the health and safety of the patient. Nurses must frequently improve patient education to help reduce these numbers.

Some things nurses can do to improve their patient counseling include:

  • Delegate some responsibilities to support staff, which will give you more time to focus on patient education.
  • Start educating patients during each encounter, all the way from admission to discharge.
  • Learn what the patient already knows and correct any misinformation.
  • Relay information in layman’s terms as much as possible. It also helps to use visual aids.
  • Kindly question their understanding of the care. This will allow you to plan for their next lesson.
  • Remember to use return demonstration while administering care. Always involve your patient from their first treatment.
  • Politely ask the patient to explain their disease or treatment and how they would relay this to friends or family.
  • Ensure the patient understands their medications as you administer them. Also, make sure they know how and when to refill them.
  • Educate patients on any signs or symptoms that require emergency attention.
  • Always take advantage of technology. Not only has technology made education materials more accessible, but resources can be customized and printed out for patients with ease.
  • Ensure the patient’s needs are addressed. Don’t just hand them a stack of papers; review them together, go over any questions, etc.
  • Discover the patient’s preferred learning style. Similar information may be provided through a range of techniques (again, technology is your friend!)
    • For instance, maybe your patient would prefer to watch a video.
    • Or, maybe your patient learns best with a hands-on approach. They can perform a home-care procedure on themselves with your guidance.
  • Rouse the patient’s interest. It’s crucial that you establish a rapport, answer questions, and consider patient concerns.
  • Take your patient’s limitations and strengths into account. For instance, do they have any physical, mental, or emotional impairments that impact their ability to learn? Some may require large-print materials. Others may be hearing impaired and need visual materials or hands-on methods.
  • Again, always ask patients to explain what you taught them. Many people will nod or say they understand when they have not actually paid attention. Keep in mind that some patients may be tired or in shock after learning of their diagnosis. Compassion and diligence are essential.
  • Include family members when appropriate. More often than not, your instructions will be followed with this strategy. In some cases, you may provide most of the instruction to family members. Remember: Excellent instruction can dramatically improve patient outcomes.

Why Should Nurses Learn How to Counsel a Patient?

Patient counseling is a critical component of the nursing profession. It empowers patients, helping them improve their health and become more involved in their own care. This makes them more likely to participate in changes that can lead to positive outcomes.

Some benefits of effective patient counseling include:

  • Prevention of conditions like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
  • Greater knowledge, comfort, and security for patients informed about what to expect during a procedure.
  • Reducing the possibility of complications by educating patients on medication, lifestyle modifications, self-monitoring devices, etc.
  • Lower number of patients that are readmitted to a hospital.
  • Greater impudence for patients as they learn self-sufficiency.

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Take the First Step Toward Your Future

Unitek College offers several nursing programs for aspiring nurses, including our Vocational Nursing and Bachelor of Science in Nursing programs.

Contact us today to learn more about our programs and tuition assistance options. Take the first step toward a rewarding future in healthcare!