Case Management

Tip: Helping patients by understanding how they learn

Case Management Weekly, June 13, 2012

Helping patients manage their own health requires an understanding of how adults learn.

More effective patient education methods are based on an adult learning model. The following assumptions form the basis of adult learning: 
  • The need to know. Adults who perceive a need to learn something are more motivated to learn it.
  • The learner’s self concept. Adults generally are responsible for their own lives; they make their own decisions and are self-directed. In a learning situation, they often revert to childlike passivity. Adult educators need to permit the patient to direct much of the learning process.
  • The learner’s experience. Adults have gained knowledge and experience, including making their own health decisions. Some new information they receive may complement what they already know, but some may contradict long held beliefs.
  • Readiness to learn. Adults become ready to learn things that will help them cope with current situations. Patients may not be ready to learn about the long-term progression of a disease until it is upon them. Learning must continue as the disease progresses.
  • Orientation to learning. Adults are motivated to learn things that will help them solve problems in real life, rather than theoretical issues they may never face. Educators must provide information patients need to manage their own health.
  • Motivation. Adults are generally motivated by internal pressures rather than external forces. Examples are a desire for improved quality of life, self esteem, and satisfaction. Patient educators must realize that regardless of their zeal, they cannot motivate adult learners. Motivation must originate with the patient.
 This week’s tip is adapted from Reducing Admissions: A Blueprint for Improving Care Transitions published by HCPro, Inc.

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