Guest Editorial

By Jensen, Gail M. | Journal, Physical Therapy Education, Winter 1999 | Go to article overview

Guest Editorial


Jensen, Gail M., Journal, Physical Therapy Education


Patient Education

Programs that educate patients do not.just happen. Rather they are shaped bly the beliefs and skills of those offering the education.1

What is patient education? What are the present and future roles for physical therapists in patient education? Dr Deusinger wrote in a recent editorial1 that teaching, like research, requires careful planning, rigorous design, systematic implementation, analysis of results. mid communication of outcome. Teaching is more than a good set of presentation skills focused on information transmission.2 We could make a similar argument for patient education. Patient education is not just about improving patient knowledge via sharing our clinical knowledge with patients or handing out educational booklets or exercise sheets. The purpose of patient education is to maintain and improve health, which means changes in attitudes and behaviors.' Patient education is defined as planned, organized learning experiences designed to facilitate voluntary adoption of behaviors, skills, or beliefs conducive to health. These educational activities can be part of either clinical patient care or community education.3

Patient (client) and family education is an increasingly important function in physical therapy practice in a health care environment focused on cost containment and efficiency. Facilitating patient independence or enhancing patient self-management is a central aspect of physical therapy practice and requires a complex array of therapists' knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Well-designed patient education programs can foster the patient's acquisition of positive health beliefs and self-management behaviors. These components can be powerful aspects of the therapeutic intervention and lead to improving the patient's health and quality of life. The purpose of this special issue is to enhance our understanding of "patient education" as an essential and complex component of professional competence.

We have invited authors from a variety of health professions to provide us with the knowledge, applicable theory, and practical strategies that are part of designing and implementing patient education in the academic and clinical settings. Dr Bella J May begins with a paper that gives us a sound historical perspective on patient education. Dr Elizabeth Mostrom and Dr Katherine Shepard draw on current theory and research as well as their wise personal reflections and practical experience in facilitating the development of competent patient educators in physical therapy education.

The next three papers focus on the vital components of understanding families, culture, and human behaviors that are often given brief attention in physical therapy curricula, Social workers Ms Amanda Randall and Dr Evy Booyawiroj provide us with an insightful Overall framework for understanding family systems and applying concepts in practice. Mr Rene Padilla and Dr Kate Brown, an occupational therapist and cultural anthropologist. write a thoughtful and provocative paper on culture with several practical ideas for physical therapy education. Dr Chris Lorish and Ms Judy Gale develop an efficient model for a theoretically based disease prevention counseling strategy that therapists can apply in practice. Dr Julie Gahimer and Mr David Morris have written a comprehensive paper on community health education with a specific focus on the role of physical therapists in this area. A second paper on health education by Ms Pamela Martin and Dr Dennis Fell passionately argues for the central role of physical therapists in health promotion and disease prevention. Our final paper by Dr Laurie Hack draws from her extensive experience in health policy work and identifies key health policy issues pertaining to patient education in physical therapy. …

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