Saturday, January 31, 2015

Making Meatloaf

Can You Really Repeat Back Everything?

During a recent classroom of nurses I was instructing, one of them asked if she is the patient's advocate shouldn't she be able to explain to the patient what the doctor said if the patient doesn't understand?

I gave her the "Meatloaf" lesson I have been working with for years.   "Who here has a wonderful meatloaf recipe" I asked the group.  One hand shot up, so I then asked who wants to go with me for dinner and have meatloaf?  Another hand went up.

I set the stage that the two of us were going to dinner to have meatloaf at Jayne's house and it was so wonderful, I asked Jayne to share the recipe with us.  I would love to make that meatloaf!  Jayne gave us the recipe.  "I use some pork and beef and an egg some seasoning and mix it all together and bake it".

I then asked the other nurses if they can repeat it.  She, nor the rest of the class could get the recipe exactly as it was shared, nor could they remember everything that was said.

So the answer is "no".  If the patient or their helping family member doesn't understand the treating clinicians instructions, diagnosis or information, the advocate is responsible for having the clinician explain it again until the patient understands it.  Too much information can be lost in the explanation.

The teach back method also is important for the same reason.  If the person receiving the meatloaf recipe writes it down, or repeats back what she heard, Jayne can verify that she has the information correct.  If Jayne just asked if we understood, it's too easy to just say "yes" and when we get home, we forgot what the actual recipe is.

Medical errors happen too often because of miscommunication.  An important part of patient safety is understanding each other.  Patients should never feel embarrassed or intimidated when  not understanding what is said, its also hard to remember a meatloaf recipe.