Monthly Education Benefits Patients and Staff
By Wendy Funk Schrag, LMSW
At Renal Care Group of the Midwest, Inc. (RCGMW), staff and dialysis patients are educated each month on topics about medical and psychosocial aspects of kidney disease. For example, here is the list of topics for 1999:
- January—Dialysis Adequacy
- February—Heart/Fluid/Blood Pressure
- April—Traveling While on Dialysis
- June—Disaster Planning: Severe Weather
- July—Disaster Planning: Survival Diet
- August—Disaster Planning: Disconnect Procedure
- September—Dialysis Treatment Options/Transplant
- October—Patient Resources (National Kidney Foundation, American Association of Kidney Patients, Life Options Rehabilitation Program, etc.)
- November—Lab Values
- December—Access Care
A multidisciplinary education team based in Wichita, Kansas, develops the educational materials. This team includes a patient educator, social worker, dietitian, and nursing staff from outpatient dialysis, home dialysis, and the nephrologist’s office (because they see people before they start dialysis). The materials are then distributed to each of the 18 other clinics in the region.
Each clinic has an education facilitator (which can be any team member), who is responsible for seeing that both staff and patients are educated. The facilitator volunteers for this role for 1 year and receives one education point each month for coordinating the education. (RCGMW employees are required to accumulate 15 education points per year, which they can earn by attending inservices or conferences, reading journal articles, etc.).
Clinic staff are educated on the topic the month before they are scheduled to teach that topic to patients. For example, in February, a diabetes educator taught staff about diabetes, which prepared them to hold patient education sessions on this topic in March. Education facilitators decide which days of the month to designate as patient education days. Every month, a computer code is generated and put into the record of each patient when education is received.
All materials are written in easily understood language, with definitions given for medical terms. Sometimes patients do the writing. Handouts written by patients provide a meaningful way for fellow patients to learn about dialysis, rather than using a textbook-type explanation. To make learning fun, handouts often have humorous content.
To add a little spark to the educational process, about three to four times a year, a quiz or puzzle is included, and prizes are awarded. For example, one month a quiz on infection control was given. Names were drawn from completed quizzes, and each winner received a colorful basket filled with bath products. Sometimes dialysis vendors donate prizes (or money to pay for prizes), and sometimes prizes are purchased using money from the clinic budget.
Staff become better educated and empathetic toward patients. As patients gain knowledge, they can have a greater impact on—and involvement in—their own care, and communicate better with staff. Patients gain knowledge on how to reach benchmarks and track their own progress. By helping to develop and write educational materials, patients can take a more active role in teaching fellow patients as well as staff. Patients are better able to communicate with their families and friends about kidney disease and its treatment. Both staff and patients learn to view education as an ongoing process.
Name: Wendy Funk Schrag, LMSW
Title: Dialysis Social Worker
Organization: Renal Care Group of the Midwest (RCGMW)
Date: June 1999