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Question: How is your patient education department organized? If you are combined with another department, how does that affect patient education needs? What are the benefits or drawbacks of the model under which you currently operate? Have you made any changes lately that have improved the organizational structure of patient education, or do you have any changes planned?
Answer: When Patient Education Management asked this month’s reader question, one point became clear: There doesn’t seem to be a single blueprint for organizing patient education within a health care facility. The one common thread among all the institutions we contacted is that each one has an organizational structure for patient education.
In light of the answers to our question, we determined that the best way to present the information was to write a short description of each institution we contacted.
• Baptist Health Systems of South Florida.
This four-hospital system in the Miami region uses a patient education liaison to coordinate patient education within the system. "I am a consultant to all four hospitals and the resource center," explains Yvonne Brookes, RN, patient education liaison for the system. Her position is part of the education department, which also oversees staff development.
Brookes attends all patient education meetings at each hospital and does the research for program changes and resource development. The difficult part of the system is that Brookes does a lot of traveling, and although she oversees patient education, no one is accountable to her.
The goal is to eventually standardize the programs and materials throughout the hospital system under Brookes’ supervision.
• Hartford Hospital.
Patient education is decentralized at Hartford (CT) Hospital, with each clinical division responsible for designing, implementing, and evaluating patient education. One person in each department coordinates the efforts.
A patient education committee sets policy and procedure and coordinates the development of materials and programs. Health care teams develop critical paths for the patient groups they manage, and that includes the patient education component, explains Joan MacRae, RND, MS, education coordinator and chair of the patient education committee at Hartford.
The advantage of this model is that there is multidisciplinary input and buy-in, and disciplines work together to coordinate patient education activities. The disadvantage is that each department has its own budget for patient education and funds can get diverted. A database of materials currently is being created to improve communication between departments and stop duplication of efforts.
• Methodist Hospitals.
Patient education is part of the nursing educational services department at Methodist Hospitals in Memphis, TN, which also oversees staff development. "I look after the in-house production of Learning for Life materials," which are patient handouts, says Marie Gill, RN, BSN, MS, patient education coordinator at Methodist. She also helps select materials for the CCTV system and conducts inservices on patient education. Her duties encompass four Memphis hospitals.
"The benefit of the system is that our program is the same from hospital to hospital and we have some continuity of care," Gill notes.
• Mid-Florida Medical Services.
The educational department at Mid-Florida Medical Services in Winter Haven oversees all education at the health system and assigns education coordinators to each category. The system includes two hospitals.
"All of us are titled education coordinators,’ and then we each have different responsibilities. Mine is patient education and continuing medical education," says Laurel Spooner, RN, BSN, education coordinator at Mid-Florida.
The drawback of this system is that there is not a separate patient education budget. Also, there are only two secretaries working with eight coordinators and the director.
• Provena Mercy Center.
The director of education at Aurora, IL-based Provena Mercy Center recently resigned, and administration is not filling the position. Now the person in charge of community education will report to public relations, and the patient education coordinator and two instructors in charge of staff education will report to the vice president of organizational structure.
The patient education coordinator is responsible for making sure staff have the resources they need for patient education, says Rita Smith, MSN, RN, education coordinator for Provena Mercy. To do so, she communicates with each department via a liaison.
Although Smith puts the processes for patient education in place and develops them, she has no authority to enforce them, and this is one drawback of the system. However, there are positives. "Having a patient education coordinator for the hospital really is better for consistent teaching. Also, having just one person dedicated to looking at patient education and making sure the standards are being met ensures a better quality," says Smith.
• Southeast Missouri Hospital.
Patient education at Cape Girardeau-based Southeast Missouri Hospital is part of the educational services department, which includes staff development, patient education, community education and outreach, and the fitness and wellness program.
"Combining all these areas under one department gives the staff resource and peer support. Each area still has its own operational budget and there is no cross-over of responsibilities," says Gwen Thoma, MSA, BSN, RN, director of educational services at the hospital.
Another benefit is having all educational functions under one umbrella so other department heads know where to go if they have an education issue, says Thoma.
At Trihealth in Cincinnati, a patient education committee is responsible for coordinating the patient education function across the organization. Members of the committee are from the three hospitals in the system and several remote sites, says Joyce Fugate, RN, MS, clinical team manager of cardiac and pulmonary rehab and co-chair of the committee.
The drawback of the system is that busy committee members find it difficult to get to meetings and work on projects.
"The committee sets the policy and guidelines for patient education. We believe that the actual patient education content should come from the experts who are doing the work," says Fugate. Each department puts together patient education programs and materials following the guidelines set by the committee.
For more information on the organizational structure of patient education, contact:
• Yvonne Brookes, RN, Patient Education Liaison, Baptist Health Systems of South Florida, 6200 S.W. 73rd St., Miami, FL 33143-4989. Telephone: (305) 242-3530. Fax: (305) 242-3578. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
• Joan MacRae, RNC, MS, Education Coordinator, Hartford Hospital, Division of Nursing Education and Research, 80 Seymour St., Hartford, CT 06102-5037. Telephone: (860) 545-2818. Fax: (860) 545-1990. E-mail: email@example.com.
• Marie Gill, RN, BSN, MS, Patient Education Coordinator, Methodist Hospitals, 1265 Union Ave., Memphis, TN 38104. Telephone: (901) 726-8435. Fax: (901) 726-8638.
• Joyce Fugate, RN, MS, Clinical Team Manager Cardiac and Pulmonary Rehab, TriHealth, Bethesda Cardiac Rehab Center, 6200 Pfeiffer Road, 2nd Floor, Cincinnati, OH 45242. Telephone: (513) 985-6778. Fax: (513) 985-6761. E-mail: joyce_fugate@trihealthcom.
• Rita Smith, MSN, RN, Patient Education Coordinator, Provena Mercy Center, 1325 North Highland Ave., Aurora, IL 60506. Telephone: (630) 801-2675. Fax: (630) 801-2687.
• Laurel Spooner, RN, BSN, Education Coordinator, 200 Ave. F NE, Winter Haven, FL 33881. Telephone: (941) 293-1121, ext. 3336. Fax: (941) 291-6022.
• Gwen Thoma, MSA, BSN, RN, Director of Educational Services, Southeast Missouri Hospital, 1701 Lacey St., Cape Girardeau, MO 63701. Telephone: (573) 651-5810. Fax: (573) 651-5832. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.