Introduction: Despite instruction, many patients do not employ diabetes-related self-management skills recommended by health professionals. One problem suggested by research is that many health professionals do not often use teaching and counseling skills widely considered to be effective. Among these are specific skills that help health professionals conduct adherence-related assessments, brainstorm workable solutions to obstacles, collaborate during long-term follow-up, and provide effective direct instruction.
Methods: "Effective Patient Teaching and Problem Solving" was developed and taught in a block of 24 hours over 3 days to groups of health professionals. Course content emphasized 13 operationally defined skills in four major categories: (A) assessment, (B) brainstorming, (C) collaboration, and (D) direct instruction skills. To evaluate participants' (n = 33) use of the various skills, a standardized patient teaching exercise was videotaped at both the beginning and end of the course.
Results: Total mean scores increased significantly (t = 7.7, p < .001) from 1.8 to 2.5 on a scale that ranged from 1 to 5. Skills improved in all four major categories (p < .003). The length of teaching sessions did not change, lasting 13.2 minutes before the course and 13.6 minutes after the intervention.
Discussion: Health professionals play a crucial role in patient education but rarely receive training in effective teaching and counseling techniques. The "Effective Patient Teaching and Problem Solving" course improved several kinds of important skills. As standards of diabetes care for improved glycemic control become more widespread, and as health providers attempt not just to teach but also to help patients overcome considerable obstacles to consistent diabetes self-management, a premium will be placed on the ability of health professionals to counsel efficiently and effectively.