Health Literacy Essay Examples
The Institute of Medicine has defined health literacy as the degree to which a person has the capacity to acquire, process, and understand the basic information related to health care and services to make appropriate health-related decisions. Health literacy is the very ability that involves learning, listening, analyzing, and developing decision-making skills regarding health and applying those skills to health situations. For instance, if a person has the ability to comprehend and follow the instructions written on prescription drug bottles accurately, then he is health literate. Same ability applies for appointment slips, doctor's directions and consent forms, medical education brochures, and the negotiating ability regarding complex health care systems (NNLM, 2014). This paper would discuss health literacy in detail, highlighting the generational differences and challenges, the role of Advanced Practice Nurses (APNs) in the patient education and the result of health literacy failures.
Generational Differences and Challenges to Health Literacy
A survey conducted by CDC in 2009 found out that the age group above 65 has the worst health literacy rate among all the age groups, because as one ages, the ability to logically comprehend instructions from a print document reduces substantially (CDC, 2010). Since most of the medical instructions regarding medications and dosage come in written form, many a time these older age population cannot comprehend the instructions easily despite being literate. For example, often elderly people depend on the younger generation to comprehend the meaning of prescriptions and dosage. In the absence of any assistance, the elderly people are more likely to take wrong medication at a wrong frequency. The new age technology used for prescribing or ordering medicine or for treatment purposes has added to the problem for the older generation as most of them are technologically illiterate. They are unable to order medicine online or use an appliance at home prescribed by the doctor because of their lack of knowledge and inability to learn the new technology at fast pace like the young generation (CDC, 2010). Since healthcare providers play an important role in health literacy, it is important for the nurses, physicians, and the caregivers to devote some time to help the elderly people understand the dosage, daily routines to be followed, life style changes and precautions to be taken accurately. By 2030, it is estimated that the old age population will reach 71 million in the USA, and in order to improve the overall health of the nation, health literacy among old age adults is necessary (CDC, 2010).
APNs and Patient Education
Aside from the elderly generation, health literacy is also poor among some of the minority groups. It is important that specialized care is taken while treating and transitioning these patients. APNs are specially trained to help the transition from hospital to home care for older adults and patients with severe disabilities. APNs while dealing with a critical patient measure the following parameters: resiliency, vulnerability, stability, complexity, resource availability, participation in care and decision making, and predictability (Collopy, 2009). APN strategy not only focuses on the patient, but also gives special attention to the family and the caregiver of the patient. It has been observed that if a critical patient is unable to take care of himself, many a time, the patient gets exposed to a fatal medical situation if the caregiver is health illiterate. APNs should ensure that the patients, their family members, and their caregivers understand the dosage of medications and the long and short term impact of the same (Collopy, 2009). A study conducted by Kathleen, Brian and Mary in 2006 found that the holistic approach undertaken by the APNs actually improves the overall health literacy among patients, their families and the caregivers (Collopy, 2009).
APN Strategy Implemented: Case Study
In the case of the two years old whose mother poured the medicine into the affected ears instead of feeding it by mouth, an APN can help in many ways to make the mother understand the instructions written on the prescribed antibiotic. It appears that the mother was probably provided with instruction as regards how to administer the medication, but the nurse never ensured if the mother has actually understood the instructions well. An APN would have handled the case differently, making sure such thing does not take place to a small child. In this case, the patient was too young to understand the medication dosage and its application. She was totally dependent on the caregiver (mother). Here the caregiver was totally involved in the process, but like any other mother of a toddler, she was more concerned about alleviating the pain and spent little time in getting the instructions correctly. This made her prone to make mistakes. Furthermore, out of her anxiety for her child, she was too flustered to cure her baby quickly by administering the medicine. An APN would have easily recognized the agitation and the anxiety of the mother and would have ensured that she understands the instructions correctly, and would have tried to compose her so that she is able to provide the best of caregiving to her daughter. Though the case from a medical perspective was a simple case, the error happened because focus was not duly attributed to the caregiver. APNs would have spent a considerable time with the mother, trying to relax her and then through demonstration would have ensured that she understood the dosage and the administration technique of the medicine properly.
Health literacy is crucial for the proper treatment and recovery of patients. Health illiteracy is commonly observed among people of old generation, who due to advanced age have lost the ability to comprehend written instructions accurately. Therefore, special care should be taken while giving instructions to a patient and his family as regards the medicinal dosage, timing of the medicine and its administration technique. APNs follow a holistic approach to while providing care and health education to patients and their families. This helps improve health literacy, ensuring a good quality of life for the patients.
National Network of Libraries of Medicine (NNLM). (2014). Health Literacy. Retrieved on 16th February, 2015 from <http://nnlm.gov/outreach/consumer/hlthlit.html>
Collopy, K. S. (2009). Advanced Practice Nurses Guiding Families Through Systems. Critical Care Nurse. 19(5). Retrieved on 16th February, 2015 from <http://www.aacn.org/wd/certifications/content/synpract5.pcms?menu=certification>
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (2010). Improving Health Literacy for Older Adults. <http://www.cdc.gov/healthliteracy/pdf/olderadults.pdf>