Patient education is the process of communicating information to a patient about his or her health, illness, treatment, and care. Patient education is provided to help patients better understand what is happening and, hopefully, to reduce the number of complications. Educated patients who exhibit a full understanding of the information provided will be less likely to suffer from complications or setbacks. In fact, patient information may even contribute to the patientâ€™s full recovery in some instances.
Patient education can help to
- Improve patient health
- Reduce visits to the doctor
- Reduce healthcare costs by reducing hospitalizations
- Control disease, preventing it from advancing
- Motivate patients to take control of their health
Itâ€™s difficult to teach people something unless you first understand how they learn. Adults learn differently than children because their motivations are different. Adults are generally practical, goal driven, self-directed, and motivated.
They bring their life experiences with them and expect to be respected for that. On top of all of that, patients may also be dealing with difficult news about their health or may be in pain. When educating patients, these things need to be kept in mind so that the information is tailored and presented in the best possible way.
Before you can begin to provide patient education, you first need to understand how adults learn and receive information. There are three main categories of learners: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.
- Visual learners understand better by looking at pictures or images. They retain better when educated using images, diagrams, or even written instructions. Visual people may look up a lot when talking.
- Auditory learners prefer that you tell them the information or process instead of having them read about it. These patients generally remember verbal instructions well. Auditory peopleâ€™s eyes may move from side to side when they talk.
- Kinesthetic learners like to be â€œhands-on.â€ They want to be doing something instead of just listening. Allow these learners to â€œplayâ€ with the model of the body while you talk about their issues or have them flip the pages on the instructions. These learners may also scribble or draw while youâ€™re talking.
Understanding these learning styles and being able to recognize them in patients will help you tailor your teaching style so that each patient is able to understand the information youâ€™re presenting to the best of his or her ability.
The most important thing to remember when working with children in the medical office is that theyâ€™re not miniature adults. This means that youâ€™ll need to adjust your patient education technique when working with children. Although children exhibit the same visual, auditory, or kinesthetic learning styles as adults, itâ€™s important to remember that youâ€™re dealing with immature beings who might be scared about the environment and their illness. When educating children:
- Get down on their level.
- Use a softer, lower voice.
- Ask them questions.
- Use fun, interactive models, technology, videos, or pictures.
You may also be dealing with patients who have disabilities or special needs or who are very aged. In these cases, education should be tailored specifically to meet the needs of those individuals. Refer to the office policies and procedures to gain more information.
Nutrition means eating the foods needed for growth and to maintain health. In health care, nutrition can refer to the patientâ€™s food requirements. Proper nutrition is vital for health and wellness. Itâ€™s important to be aware of any digestive issues and any foods that the patient canâ€™t have. Proper nutrition is vital for patient health, and this is especially true for aging patients. Patients wonâ€™t heal if they donâ€™t receive the proper nutrients.
The terms nutritionist and dietitian are often used interchangeably. Although they both work with food and diet, theyâ€™re different specialists. Nutritionists are interested in nutrition and the relationship diet has with health and disease. Nutritionists arenâ€™t required to have formal accreditation. In contrasts, dietitians have at least a four-year degree and study the science of nutrition and how it affects lifestyle and health. They often have taken a series of exams so that theyâ€™re accredited as registered dietitians (RDs). Dietitians are the ones who usually work in hospitals.
Nutrients are those substances that provide nourishment. For humans, nutrients can come in the form of food and provide the things our bodies need to thrive. The nutrients that provide energy for our body fall into three categories:
Our bodies also require nutrients to metabolize food. These include
Your textbook discusses the role of MyPyramid, the revision of the old food pyramid that was released in 2005. However, many found the new pyramid to be confusing and hard to follow. In June 2011, the USDA revealed a new program to replace MyPyramid called MyPlate. MyPlate is an image of a dinner plate divided into four portions: fruits, grains, proteins, and vegetables. A dairy component is represented by a glass off to the side. MyPlate shows that fruits and vegetables should make up more than half of our meals, with more vegetables than fruits.
On its website, the USDA offers 10 tips to a great plate:
- Balance calories. Find out how many calories you need for a day as a first step in managing your weight. Go to www.ChooseMyPlate.gov to find your calorie level. Being physically active also helps you balance calories.
- Enjoy your food, but eat less. Take the time to fully enjoy your food as you eat it. Eating too fast or when your attention is elsewhere may lead to eating too many calories. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues before, during, and after meals. Use them to recognize when to eat and when youâ€™ve had enough.
- Avoid oversized portions. Use a smaller plate, bowl, and glass. Portion out foods before you eat. When eating out, choose a smaller-size option, share a dish, or take home part of your meal.
- Foods to eat more often. Eat more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and fat-free or 1% milk and dairy products. These foods have the nutrients you need for healthâ€”including potassium, calcium, vitamin D, and fiber. Make them the basis for meals and snacks.
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. Choose red, orange, and dark-green vegetables like tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli, along with other vegetables for your meals. Add fruit to meals as part of main or side dishes or as dessert.
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk. They have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but fewer calories and less saturated fat.
- Make half your grains whole grains. To eat more whole grains, substitute a whole-grain product for a refined productâ€”such as eating whole-wheat bread instead of white bread or brown rice instead of white rice.
- Foods to eat less often. Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt. They include cakes, cookies, ice cream, candies, sweetened drinks, pizza, and fatty meats like ribs, sausages, bacon, and hot dogs. Use these foods as occasional treats, not everyday foods.
- Compare sodium in foods. Use the Nutrition Facts label to choose lower sodium versions of foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals. Select canned foods labeled â€œlow sodium,â€ â€reduced sodium,â€ or â€œno salt added.â€
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks. Cut calories by drinking water or unsweetened beverages. Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks are a major source of added sugar, and calories, in American diets.
Mental health is the state of a personâ€™s psychological and emotional mental well-being. The U.S. Surgeon Generalâ€™s Report on Mental Health gives the official definition of mental health as, â€œthe successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity.â€
Mental disorders can be tricky in health care because they can be difficult to diagnose. For example, we can measure someoneâ€™s blood pressure, see that itâ€™s consistently high, and then treat the patient with blood pressure medication. Itâ€™s much more difficult to measure a personâ€™s mental status. In fact, the patient may even be unable to describe how he or she is feeling.
Psychology is the study of the human mind and how it affects behavior. A psychologist is someone who specializes in the area of psychology. Most psychologists have either a masterâ€™s degree or a doctoral degree in either philosophy or psychology. Mental health professionals must complete a number of educational requirements and be licensed in order to call themselves â€œpsychologists.â€ Psychologists are sometimes called therapists or counselors.
These labels are accurate in some cases, but they may also be used by other professionals who are treating patients for behavioral issues, such as social workers who have become therapists. Psychologists generally canâ€™t prescribe medications, although a few states do give psychologists prescribing privileges.
Psychiatry is the branch of medicine that studies and treats mental illness and emotional and behavioral issues. A psychiatrist is a medical doctor who specializes in the field of psychiatry. Psychiatrists are medical doctors who can prescribe medication.
Psychological disorders, sometimes referred to as mental disorders, are behaviors and issues that are the result of mental issues (i.e., organic issues with the brain) or behavioral issues that are caused by how a person acts or behaves. In some cases, psychological disorders can be caused by environmental factors, such as exposure to toxins, poor nutrition, or stress.
Psychological disorders include
- Anxiety disorders
- Cognitive disorders
- Developmental disorders
- Dissociative disorders
- Eating disorders
- Impulse control disorders
- Mood disorders
- Personality disorders
- Psychotic disorders
- Somatoform and factitious disorders
Professionalism is the knowledge, skills, characteristics, and positive actions, such as morals and ethics, that we exhibit in our jobs. One of the things thatâ€™s different for professionalism in health care versus jobs in other industries is that weâ€™re bound by ethical behavior and a desire to help others. No matter if a healthcare professional works in the business office processing bills or assisting the physician with the patient, thereâ€™s always that common goal of treating patients and helping them live the healthiest life possible.
- Are committed to patient care
- Abide by ethics and morals
- Uphold confidentiality
- Are trustworthy
- Take responsibilities for their actions
- Exhibit leadership
- Maintain required credentialing or licensing
- Feel a responsibility to the industry and patient care
The following types of conduct would be considered unprofessional:
- Breach of confidentiality
- Abuse of power
- Misuse of medical information other than in ways intended
- Disrespectful treatment of patients or other healthcare workers
- Conflicts of interest
Communication is a vital part of working in a physicianâ€™s office. There are different types of communication, including written, verbal, and even nonverbal communication.
Written communication is anything that you write downâ€”whether it be handwritten into a patientâ€™s health record, typed into an email or a text message, or something shared on the officeâ€™s website or social media page. Itâ€™s difficult to determine tone in written communications, so be sure to avoid using slang terms, jokes, or passive-aggressive comments that could easily be misconstrued. When in doubt as to whether you should include something in a written communication, err on the side of caution and leave it out.
Writing or documenting information in a patientâ€™s health record has its own set of standards and rules that you must follow to remain compliant with state and federal regulations. Be sure to review the office policies and procedures on documenting in a patientâ€™s health record.
In the medical office, written communication should
- Be professional
- Consider the audience
- Use the right format for the type of communication
- Be reviewed and proofread before mailing or sending
- Avoid slang, jargon, or â€œtext talkâ€ abbreviations
- Use simple language and good grammar
- Stick to the facts without extraneous information added
Verbal communication occurs when people exchange spoken words. However, in verbal communication it isnâ€™t just about the words someone is saying. Itâ€™s also about the words that are spoken and the speakerâ€™s tone of voice and facial gestures and expressions.
Along with the words being spoken, listening is also an important part of verbal communication. Active listening means
- Showing an interest in whatâ€™s being said
- Avoiding interrupting
- Asking good questions only after the other person has finished talking
- Leaning forward toward the speaker
- Avoiding distractions and fidgeting
Verbal modeling means speaking to people the way they speak to you. If theyâ€™re speaking quietly, then you should lower your voice also. Verbal modeling makes people relate to you more easily.
Nonverbal communication is everything that happens outside of speaking when interacting with another person. Nonverbal communication includes
- Facial expressions
- Eye contact
- Hand gestures
- Closeness or proximity to the speaker
Colors communicate messages, too. In health care, itâ€™s important to be aware of colors in the areas where patients spend time. For example, studies have shown that red can raise some peopleâ€™s heart rates, whereas yellow can evoke happiness and prompt our bodies to release serotonin.
Social media includes websites and applications that allow users to share information and communicate with each other online. Social media includes sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram, and others.
Social media enables people to share and receive up-to-the-minute information at any time throughout a day. Many medical offices are implementing social media as an additional way to market the business and to reach patients. However, utilizing social media in the healthcare setting creates issues that may not exist in other business settings. The medical field strongly regulates privacy and confidentiality, so this should always be taken into consideration when posting on social media from a healthcare environment.
Your professional image plays an important role in how others perceive you. How you look and present yourself is the first thing that you communicate to people. If youâ€™re unsure of your image, now is the time to work on it before you start interviewing or look to switch jobs.
Most healthcare environments will have a dress code, so youâ€™ll want to ensure that youâ€™re meeting that standard. Beyond that, present a professional image by
- Wearing clean clothes
- Keeping your hair tidy
- Not wearing too much cologne or perfume
- Avoiding over-the-top fashion and hair trends
Having a professional image isnâ€™t all about how you look, itâ€™s also about how you act. To present a professional image beyond your physical appearance:
- Be confident.
- Stand up straight.
- Make eye contact.
- Be respectful.
- Be prepared.
- Follow up when you say you will.
- Be on time.
- Refrain from gossiping.
- Support coworkers.
- Keep your work area neat and tidy.
Externship and Career Opportunities
The great thing about being a student in a healthcare field is that thereâ€™s always going to be a need for healthcare workers. No matter the state of the economy, people are still going to get sick and need treatment. Additionally, the U.S. baby boom population is aging, so more people are requiring physician services, which will require physicians, clinics, and other healthcare organizations to hire more qualified office help.
An externship, or practicum, is a way to obtain practical experience in the work environment as part of your educational process. It allows you to take what youâ€™ve learned throughout your medical assistant training program and put it into hands-on training under the supervision of others.
The benefits of completing an externship include
- Hands-on training and exposure to real-life situations
- Better preparation for work after graduation
- Networking opportunities
- Ability to gain experience from professionals in areas that youâ€™re not as strong in
- Chance to obtain experience across different offices or medical specialties
- Help to identify areas where you would be most interested in working
- Looks great on a resume to potential employers
During an externship, the student will most likely be assigned a manager, supervisor, or employee that he or she will â€œshadowâ€ throughout each day. The student follows the designated employee and observes and participates in each area of work responsibility, including
- Administrative and clinical skills
- Physical appearance
- Interpersonal communication skills
Externship hours vary, but are generally around 160 hours of total time at the medical office site while still enrolled in a program or immediately after the school portion of the program has ended. Some students are even offered jobs at their externship site after they graduate.
During an externship, the medical assisting student is ultimately the responsibility of the physician. However, the physician may assign a preceptor, or someone to be in charge of the student while he or she is completing the externship.
Certification is a voluntary step that a medical assistant can take after graduation. Itâ€™s a separate step that many medical assistants take to show their knowledge and commitment to the industry.
Colleges donâ€™t offer certification for medical assistants. Itâ€™s a professional designation thatâ€™s granted by independent institutions. The American Association of Medical Assistants, or AAMA, is the main certification-granting institution for medical assistants.
Once a medical assistant has graduated from an accredited program and completed the other requirements, such as the externship, he or she is eligible to sit for the AAMA certification examination. Examinations are given throughout the year by AAMA. After passing the AAMA certification examination and being awarded the CMA certification, you can then use the certification with your name like this: Jane Doe, CMA (AAMA).
Becoming certified is an optional step in your career as a medical assistant. However, itâ€™s strongly recommended that you consider the certification. Many offices will only hire those who have their certification or are in the process of getting their certification.
- Shows your commitment to the industry
- Provides more job opportunities
- Opens doors for networking events
- Allows you to remain current on industry standards and changes
- Improves your pay rate or salary
- Provides discounts on things like insurance
Preparing for the Job Search
Once youâ€™ve completed your training and the externship, you should start preparing for your job search. Itâ€™s normal to be nervous during this process because itâ€™s a time of change and adjustment in your life. Youâ€™re finally moving from being a student into the workforce.
To prepare for your transition from a student to a professional in the healthcare industry, you should do the following:
- Research jobs. Start online by researching jobs in your area. Learn what types of jobs are available or which organizations have recently hired. Donâ€™t be afraid to ask your externship if theyâ€™re hiring or if they know anyone who is hiring.
- Prepare your resume and references. Preparing your resume can be tricky as a new graduate, especially if youâ€™ve never worked in the industry before or have little to no job experience. In this case, focus on your resume as a marketing document that lists your career objectives, grade point average (if itâ€™s good), and any volunteer experiences. Also, ask your externship and volunteer sites for reference letters.
- Network. Networking is a huge part of helping people get jobs, but something thatâ€™s often overlooked by new graduates. As youâ€™re nearing completion of your training program, you should start joining networking groups. You can find them through a professional organization such as the AAMA or even on local meetup sites like http://www.Meetup.com.
- You donâ€™t have to only attend healthcare-related networking events. Business networking events and social events will be beneficial for you, too. Just meeting and talking to new people about what youâ€™re looking for will help keep your name out there for potential jobs.
An important part of networking is grabbing someoneâ€™s attention within the first 60 seconds of meeting them. This is called the â€œelevator pitch,â€ and it can help determine if people are going to remember you or not. Before you attend a networking event, write down and practice your elevator pitchâ€”who you are, what youâ€™re looking for, and why youâ€™re there. Remember, at some networking events there will be hundreds of people. You need a way to stand out and get people to remember you, so be creative and interesting!
- Clean up your social media. Are there pictures, statements, or information on your Facebook page, Twitter account, Instagram site, Pinterest page, or other social network that has information you would prefer a potential employer not to see? Itâ€™s time to clean up your social networking profiles! Take a fresh look at your social media accounts and see if thereâ€™s anything that might need to be removed.
- Get active on social media. One of the first things you should do if you havenâ€™t already is to join LinkedIn. LinkedIn.com is a free professional networking site and one many people turn to find candidates to fill their positions. Consider it your online resume. Also, get on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media forums to let people know youâ€™re looking for a job. Change your job and status to something like, â€œLooking for a job as a medical assistant in the Detroit metro area.â€
- Have a plan for in case you donâ€™t get hired right away. So youâ€™ve done everything the right way and youâ€™re still not getting any bites. Now what? Donâ€™t despair! The worst thing you can do is sit around and brood about it. Itâ€™s during this time that you need to put even more time into networking. Create a schedule where youâ€™re networking weekly and also reaching out to professionals. Additionally, find a place to volunteer in the healthcare industry. On your resume, this will translate as you being a go-getter who is ready to be in the industry!
Creating a Resume
Creating a resume is a daunting task for anyone, especially if youâ€™re just graduating and donâ€™t have a great deal of experience to put on it. So, how do you create a strong resume with your current background?
When creating a resume for todayâ€™s market, you need to include the following:
- A branding statement of 15 or fewer words that states your expertise
- An objective statement that lists your experience as it relates to the job
- A headline that reveals why you would be valuable to the company
- A profile summary paragraph listing skills and qualifications
- An educational or career summary listing your education or skills
For new graduates, additional things to include on a resume that could be beneficial include technical experience, volunteer experiences, and professional association memberships.
When creating a resume, DO
- Tailor your resume for each job you submit it to
- Make it organized with a lot of â€œwhite spaceâ€
- Make sure the top one-third will entice your potential employer to read on
- Format your resume so it can also be read on mobile devices
- Proofread and then proofread again!
- Use action words and phrases (e.g., collaborated, defined, raised, managed)
When creating a resume, DONâ€™T
- Provide your full address; youâ€™ll have the opportunity to provide that information later
- List a career objective
- Highlight your education and relevant coursework
- Use weird fonts; stick to standards like Times New Roman
- Use colored paper or colored fonts
- Use weird, unprofessional email addresses like email@example.com
- Embellish or stretch the truth to fill up your resume
- Put references on your resume; there will be other opportunities to submit them
- Make it more than two pages
- Include information about high sch