Jeff Rodieck, PA-C, was my primary mentor during my first year as a medic at Camp Red Cloud, South Korea. One of the many things I learned from him is to always start my treatment plan with: “patient education, patient reassurance.”
He practiced what he preached. One afternoon a patient was scheduled for a lipoma removal. Jeff sat down with the patient and began to talk about what lipomas were, how they “just appeared” in some folks and how removing them would not guarantee they would not reappear.
For the average patient this level of education would have sufficed. But not for this young man. He had questions upon questions, and Jeff kept his cool, answering them in a very reasonable manner.
After a short period of time, I could tell it might take a while and excused myself from the room. About 15 minutes later, Jeff called me back in the room, and we proceeded with the lipoma removal. Everything went smoothly, and the patient remained calm through the entire procedure.
During the procedure, I noticed that the paper that usually covered the exam bed was gone. When I returned to the room to give the patient some paperwork, he said: “I have everything I need right here.”
He held up the folded exam bed paper. Jeff had covered it with extensive and exquisite drawings and explanations of everything they were discussing. We chuckled, but the point was made.
Recently, on my elective rotation in emergency medicine at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rhinelander, Wisc. (home of the Hodag), my preceptor, Marina McKissack, PA-C, commented on how I started ever patient plan with: “1. patient education, patient reassurance.”
She reaffirmed what Jeff told me about the importance of patient education and was pleased that I documented it in every chart. Marina offered additional advice that in order for us to properly educate our patients we need to be educated ourselves.
One of her tips was to keep an “address book of wisdom.“ At first I was confused, but she showed me how it was a really nice organizer. For example, you get a pocket-size address book, and then as a topic comes up, you jot down a note or cut out quick references and paste them. Everything is alphabetical (renal infarct goes under “R”). It keeps things nicely organized and keeps you in check.
No matter where you are in your career, you can never afford to neglect patient education. What I’ve found is that those details or questions I never thought would be asked have been asked often—not by professors or the fine folks at Challenger exams, but by the patients.
Patient education empowers patients. It empowers PAs. And for many patients, it makes all the difference.
John W. (JJ) Jenkins is a second-year PA student at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wis. He is an Army veteran and former president of the Carroll University Physician Assistant Student Society (CU PASS).