Patients as educators: Contemporary application of an old educational strategy to promote patient-centered care

Jill M. Terrien, Janet Fraser Hale


Patients first. Patient-centered care. Patient-centered medical homes. The patient experience. Today, it is hard to miss the appeal for patient-centered care in US health care reform, as well as in national and professional publications. If patients are the focus, shouldn’t they formally contribute to nursing and other health professions education? The earlier in their education students understand patients’ perspectives, the better they can integrate patients’ reality into their practice. Experiencing the health care maze through the perspective of a patient or family living with disability, cancer, chronic disease, or dementia has an indelible impact on a learner’s practice. While simulation, standardized patients, and problem-
based learning are excellent educational strategies, patients as teachers in the classroom creatively, efficiently, and memorably bring life to multiple concepts and content areas far more effectively than an abstract case, lecture, and/or bulleted slides. This article presents a brief history of patient teachers, and the authors’ experiences of integrating them into the nursing curriculum. Students enjoyed learning, participated enthusiastically, and evaluated these classes at the highest level. Patients found teaching empowering and were proud to teach future nurses.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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