Maybe you know visual learners like me—people who learn best when watching demonstrations or seeing drawings and photographs. Visuals can go a long way toward helping others understand health care concepts and instructions.
Here are some how-to’s:
- Teach in bite-sized chunks. Focus primarily on “need-to-know” (rather than “nice to know”) concepts and actions. Organize this in a logical way such as from first to last, or most common to least. Then teach in bite-sized “chunks” that people can easily understand and act on.
- Decide how to illustrate each “chunk.” Perhaps you will draw something. You need not be an amazing artist. Often, a simple sketch will do. If you are not comfortable drawing, perhaps use pre-drawn illustrations and add your own markings. I spoke with a man who had emergency cardiac surgery. He said that one of the most helpful ways his doctor explained the problem was with a “heart picture.” His doctor marked on an anatomic illustration where his blockage was and how much it was occluded. Years later, this man still has his heart picture.
- Supplement with words. As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a 1,000 words.” But when it comes to health teaching, pictures alone may not be sufficient. You can make visual messages more clear by adding simple, descriptive wording just below.
- Confirm understanding. As with all forms of teaching, confirm that the other person understands. When using pictures you might say, “I want to see how well I did at drawing. What does this picture mean to you?”
- Give away your artwork. A dermatologist quickly sketched my mole that she had just removed. This drawing helped me understand its size and reassured me that the mole was not worrisome. Later, I wanted a second look. Alas, the doctor had not given me her picture. You can help others better remember health messages by letting them keep your artwork.
Ways to Learn More:
- Comics and Medicine: That’s Health Literacy, Too. Health Literacy Out Loud podcast interview with MK Czerwiec, who describes herself as a nurse who draws comics.
- Health Literacy from A to Z: Practical Ways to Communicate Your Health Message, Second Edition. Award-winning. best-selling book by Helen Osborne, published by Jones & Bartlett Learning. Includes a chapter on Visuals. Available at most online bookstores, including Amazon.
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