Empowering Psychiatric Patients Through Education

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Providing Patient Education Services

One of the most important roles the psychiatric nurses at PsychCoverage have is as educator. The vast majority of the calls that come in are from patients who are worried about their new medication, experiencing side effects, not experiencing a decrease in symptoms, or who need some reassurance. There are many reasons patients need additional education regarding the medications their treating psychiatrist has prescribed:

  • Psychiatric patients do not have the same understanding of how medications work as their psychiatrists do, or understand how long they need to be taken in order to be effective.
  • Most treating psychiatrists will discuss both of these things with their patients, but sometimes there isn’t enough time in an office visit to provide the patient with a full understanding.
  • What may come as a natural understanding to a psychiatrist is not so natural for a patient, and certain things can be glossed over.
  • A patient may not be in the most receptive or understanding of states in a psychiatrist’s office and may not fully retain the information they receive.
  • Patients may have an unrealistic expectation of their medications and won’t think to discuss them until a few weeks in to treatment.
  • Patients may walk out of their psychiatrist’s office with a full understanding of their treatment but forget a few weeks down the road and need additional education and reassurance.

All of these reasons are why PsychCoverage functions as an extension of their psychiatrist’s office. We are there for the patients when their psychiatrist is unavailable (like on weekends and during vacations) in order to provide them with a seamless, 24/7 resource. The goal is to keep psychiatric patients on their treatment course, especially medication. Too often a patient will be taking a new medication for a few weeks, not see the type of results they were hoping for (or experience a crisis during that time), and immediately want to go off it. Patients in this position want to talk with their doctor to be reassured of their decision; when their psychiatrist isn’t available the patient is forced to make that decision alone. PsychCoverage takes this burden away from both patient and psychiatrist; the patient can call in, talk to a trained psychiatric nurse, and come away with education about their particular course of treatment, why it’s important to continue treatment, and tips on getting them through until their next office visit with their treating psychiatrist.

The benefits of psychiatric patient education

The benefits this service provides are immense. First, patients do not see any interruptions in their time of need. Crises and questions often come at night, or when the patient is alone, and waiting to make an appointment can feel like an eternity. We remove this anxiety by providing evening and weekend availability so patients always have someone to talk to. Second, psychiatrists don’t experience an interruption in their counseling. When a treating psychiatrist to return to the office on a Monday and discover a patient has discontinued his medication over the weekend because it wasn’t doing what he thought it would do (or doubled the dosage), the psychiatrist has clean up work to do. Third, psychiatrists get a break. This is an¬†immeasurable benefit because it allows psychiatrists to return to work refreshed and in a better position to treat their patients face to face.

Patient resources

A minimum amount of coaching, reassurance, and education go a long way in improving patient experiences. In fact, we have a very high success rate of getting patients to feel much better within 12 to 24 hours. We ask patients to call us back within 12 hours, and if they don’t we follow up with them. We also call patients in the morning before it’s time for their next dose. Keeping them on track with their treatment makes it much easier for them and their psychiatrist.

We have plans to grow our resource center for both psychiatrists and their patients by providing podcasts and literature. Psychiatrists will be able to download these from our website and distribute them to their patients so they can be educated in their own time. Topics will include typical medications, behavioral activation, relaxation and stress management, and sleep. The mobility of our podcasts will allow psychiatric patients to listen to them on whatever device is convenient and whatever time is convenient. We believe this strategy will also help psychiatrists treat their patients in a more complete manner. We also provide outside referrals and resources to patients and their family members; community resources, NAMI, and local resources are just a start to the services we can educate patients about to give them the power to make better decisions for their mental health.