Do Patients Understand Discharge Instructions?

Published:December 10, 2009DOI:


      Adherence to aftercare instructions following an emergency department visit may be essential for facilitating recovery and avoiding complications, but conditions for teaching and learning are less than ideal in the ED. The objective of this study was to identify and describe areas of patient confusion about ED discharge instructions.


      Follow-up telephone calls were made to 50 ED patients on the day after discharge to inquire how they were doing and whether they had any questions about their instructions.


      Fifteen subjects (31%) requested information about their aftercare instructions that required further clarification by the investigator, and 15 subjects (31%) described a diagnosis-related concern that revealed poor comprehension of instructions.


      This study demonstrated that patients commonly remain confused about aftercare information following treatment in an ED. Follow-up telephone calls may be useful for identifying and addressing ongoing learning needs.

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      Sandra Zavala, Member, Northern Virginia Chapter, is Emergency Nurse, Reston Hospital Center, Reston, VA, and Graduate Student, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.


      Carol Shaffer is Research Coordinator, Reston Hospital Center, Reston, VA, and Adjunct Faculty Member, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA.