Patient education in the Emergency Department: What’s going on?

Mrs Nicole Coombs1

1Federation University Australia, Churchill, Australia

Patient education is paramount in professional nursing practice as well as ensuring patient safety and empowerment. Much research has occurred in the field of patient education regarding practices and techniques as well as patient comprehension and compliance, but limited studies have been conducted specifically in the Emergency Department (ED) setting. A scoping review of the literature was conducted to explore a generalised view of the existing barriers to effective patient education in this unique healthcare environment. Despite some progress being made in patient education techniques and technologies, evidence suggests health promotion and patient education practices in general may be stagnating within the ED.

Many new education practices and delivery techniques have been explored and tested, yet current study outcomes still highlight issues regarding poor patient comprehension and compliance. Findings from this review of the literature identified three important factors, each contributing to the challenges both patients and staff experience in either receiving or providing health information and discharge instructions. Various perspectives including, the patient (recipient), the staff (provider) and the organisation (environment) have been used to demonstrate the barriers to effective education and ultimately, how they influence patient safety outcomes.

The recommendations from this review include using a broader, collective lens to explore this area of nursing practice, and that solutions cannot come from one perspective alone. An increased recognition for the value of patient education is also needed within this critical care environment, not only in progressing practice, but in order to improve patient safety and health outcomes.


Nicole has been employed as a lecturer at Federation University Australia – Gippsland campus since 2015 and is passionate about Teaching and Learning. By sharing her knowledge and clinical experience as an emergency nurse, she is able to highlight the connections of both critical care and Primary Health, aiming to reduce the perception of a ‘great divide’ between the two. Teaching future nurses the importance of preventative practice rather than curative practice, is where her strengths lie.  Having already obtained a Masters in Nursing, she is now undertaking her PhD studies in the field of patient education in the emergency department. She has several publications in the areas of nurse and patient education in both Primary Health and Emergency fields.