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Management skills for future needs
Emphasis on cost-benefit analysis of patient teaching
Although most patient education managers do not have a crystal ball in which to look into the future, by keeping abreast of trends, they can predict what new job skills are on the horizon. In fact, the need for some of these skills now is developing.
There will be more emphasis on measuring outcomes, on cost-benefit analyses of patient teaching, and community education with the emphasis on prevention and early detection, says Mary Szczepanik, MS, BSN, RN, manager of cancer education, support, and outreach at OhioHealth Cancer Services in Columbus.
Although she informally has been involved in process improvement initiatives for about 15 years there is more emphasis placed on developing skills in this area too. Szczepanik has undergone training at her health care facility to improve her understanding of process improvement and currently oversees three process improvement teams at three hospital sites working on symptom management for cancer patients. The teams gather data from patients, staff, and medical records to determine what symptoms are problematic, what is currently being done to manage them, and how the health care organization can improve.
There are many different models for process improvement; therefore, patient education managers need to determine which model their health care facility is using before taking a class or looking for information. The organization often will provide training.
Although computer skills now are part of the job requirements for patient education managers it also is important that they keep abreast of technological advances, reports Magdalyn Patyk, MS, RN, BC, patient education consultant at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
She currently is investigating document management systems so revisions on a patient education brochure will automatically transfer to the copy on the intranet and Internet, as well as to the vendor who prints the hard copies.
Also, Patyk is uncovering more databases on-line with good handouts that she can use. For example, she is not developing as many medication instructions because there are excellent sheets available on-line.
New ways to communicate with patients over secured web sites will provide new opportunities for patient education managers as well, says Patyk. "We are working on multiple models for delivery of patient education pieces and looking at various systems for that," she says.
To stay abreast of technology, Carol Maller, MS, RN, CHES, diabetes project coordinator for Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, NM, advises patient education managers to take as many computer classes as their organization offers. "You have to have the mindset that you will use the skills you learn in the class and then see how they might apply to your job after the class. If you sit back and wait until you see how it applies, it is too late," she explains.
Annette Mercurio, MPH, CHES, manager of patient, family, and community education at City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, CA, sees patient- and family-centered care becoming more important. With that comes the development of patient and family advisory councils to assist in the development of educational materials and programs to ensure they are family centered.
Cultural diversity and language barriers are impacting patient education more often because these issues directly impact the education of a patient or the planning of an educational program, says Szczepanik.
She has found that the professional groups to which she belongs offer the best education on cultural issues, because health care professionals who work with certain patient populations often are present at the meetings.
Other good ways of keeping abreast of cultural diversity issues and other trends impacting patient education is to read. "The first thing I do when I read an article is look at the bibliography to see if there are any other articles that I think would help me," says Szczepanik.