Essay: Health Literacy

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Health Literacy

The nurse plays the most critical role in improving patient health literacy, because the nurse serves as a patient advocate. As Speros (2011) points out, "It is imperative that nursing responds to the call of creating a health literate society by taking an active role in health literacy research, education, and promotion (p. 321). The nurse is often the person to whim the patient goes when there are questions related to intake forms, insurance, or specific care issues like wound dressings or nutrition when the physician is unavailable. "Nurses have a professional and ethical obligation to communicate in a clear, purposeful way that addresses the unique information needs of each patient," (Speros, 2011, p. 321). Health literacy entails everything from being able to read the labels on medications, to understanding patient rights.

Patients can access health-related information in many different ways. The Internet provides the primary portal for patients to learn about their conditions, symptoms, and rights. For the most part, nurses should facilitate the acquisition of information using the Internet. However, the Internet can also mislead patients. Even credible resources can scare patients or misinform patients who lack basic health literacy. This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2013) operates the Health Literacy component of their website. Patients who self-diagnose can be hypochondriacs, or they might be simply seeking a label for their condition in order to understand their symptoms.

The nurse is there to ensure that the patient does not jump to the wrong conclusion when using online diagnosis websites like WebMD. These websites provide some helpful information, but they can also increase a patient's sense of anxiety about what disease they might have. I would consistently recommend that patients visit the CDC (2013) portal to discover what health literacy entails. I would make sure that patients remain empowered by the information they read, but that they do not make… [END OF PREVIEW]

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