Occupational therapy and client/ patient handouts

I have had some recent experience of knowing someone in hospital. From this experience I have some thoughts about handouts.

Many professions use handouts as a way of informing patients and their relatives about an issue, strategies or techniques that would be useful for the client and their family to know. The concept is a very good one. We know that clients and their families don’t always know what to ask or what will assist in the persons treatment, a handout can help answer questions and give them things to do. It gives them something to refer back to, gives them the time they  need time to absorb the information at their own rate and means that they can use the information to help them form questions.

So from my experience here are some things we should consider when giving out a handout (and I reiterate I do think handouts are very useful, if well thought out and I acknowledge that we don’t have time for them to all be individually done).

1. Handouts are often generic, so find a way to personalise it for that client. Put their name on it – and find a way of indicating which of the pieces of information/suggestions or techniques are best suited for that client. For example you could state at the beginning of the handout that the ideas suited for Tom or Sally have a tick beside them and the ones that aren’t relevant a cross (make the ticks big and bright).

2. Find a way of keeping the information together for the client – a bundle of loose pages gets lost, people don’t know if they are still relevant or even for that person, they don’t know if the information is out of date or still relevant. Perhaps they could be placed in a file (with a date on them) or perhaps they could be dated and put on the wall.

3. Indicate on the handout how you think the information should be used e.g. is it something that you are suggesting family/visitors do with the client (negotiate with the client that this is ok with them first though and have this on the handout) or do you expect the client to do it themselves?.

4. Make sure the handouts are up-to-date with the clients progress

5. When you do give a handout – don’t just hand it quickly over and walk away (after  all it is important) – explain and go though it with the client and/or family

5. Finally, all of the above is even more important if the client has a memory problem !!!!! (sounds obvious!)

So if you are a therapist how about thinking about your handouts. Could you improve them, and how you introduce them to your clients and their families.

I will look forward to seeing if any of you have other suggestions of the does and don’ts to add to this list.


3 responses to “Occupational therapy and client/ patient handouts

  1. Make your handouts look professional! Don’t use blurred, old photocopies – they will give an image that suggests you don’t care much about your information.

    Put contact details on them – especially put your name and phone number on them. Generic contact details ‘the department’ makes it difficult for someone to ask for help if they need it.

    Don’t use silly clip-art that has been seen before – this cheapens your image again… If you can’t get good line drawings relevant to what your handout is about, then use quality clip-art that reproduces clearly and is relevant. The Microsoft Clip-art site has loads to choose from.

    Don’t use a lot of different fonts – it’s hard to read. Make sure your font size is large enough to read (at least 12 point), and use headings and bullet points to make it clear.

    Use FOG index or other readability checks to ensure your handout is written at a suitable level – most should be around reading age of 12. Health literacy matters.

    Make sure you put in your references – copyright matters, and some people like to look at the original material.

    Date your handout and put in who developed or compiled it.

  2. occupationaltherapyotago

    Yes – I agree, the look can be incredibly important. It contributes to how people percieve, or the value they put on the information and contributes to the weight or worth someone will place on what they are reading. Or indeed makes them decide whether to read the information.

    I also need to get in, before Merrolee does, to say, with the technology available now, and computers in most wards/offices/departments it is possible to take a standard document and personalise it very quickly for someone. It is about having the handout placed somewhere on your computer network that makes it accessible for you to personalise.

    Due to the learning on my next post ‘Calling all occupational therapists’ – I have to add to the list of what’s important in a patient/client handout: –

    don’t use abbreviations
    and always put occupational therapy in full.

  3. Wow enjoyed reading this post. I submitted your feed to my google reader.

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