Health professionals with the level of competency necessary to provide high-quality patient education are central to meeting patients' needs. However, research on how competencies in patient education should be developed and health professionals trained in them, is lacking. The aim of this study was to investigate the characteristics of an expert educator according to health professionals experienced in patient education for patients with coronary heart disease, and their views on how to become an expert educator.
This descriptive qualitative study was conducted through individual interviews with health professionals experienced in patient education in cardiac care. Participants were recruited from cardiac care units and by using a snowball sampling technique. The interviews were audiotaped and transcribed verbatim. The data were analyzed with thematic approaches, using systematic text condensation.
Nineteen Icelandic and Norwegian registered nurses, physiotherapists, and cardiologists, who had worked in cardiac care for 12 years on average, participated in the study. Being sensitive to the patient's interests and learning needs, and possessing the ability to tailor the education to each patient's needs and context of the situation was described as the hallmarks of an expert educator. To become an expert educator, motivation and active participation of the novice educator and a supportive learning environment were considered prerequisites. Supportive educational resources, observation and experiential training, and guidance from experienced educators were given as examples of resources that enhance competence development. Experienced educators expressed the need for peer support, inter-professional cooperation, and mentoring to further develop their competency.
Expert patient educators were described as those demonstrating sensitivity toward the patient's learning needs and an ability to individualize the patient's education. A supportive learning environment, inner motivation, and an awareness of the value of patient education were considered the main factors required to become an expert educator. The experienced educators expressed a need for continuing education and peer support.