Conference Coverage

Patient Education in Radiation Oncology

Anthony Calabro, MA

In her presentation, “Hot Topics in Radiation Oncology: Patient Education,” Gayle Somerstein, RN, OCN, BSN, MPH, MBA, Senior Director, Patient Care Services at Northwell Health Cancer Institute in New Hyde Park, New York detailed adult learning styles that can be tailored to each patient’s learning abilities and preferences and reviewed novel educational methods designed specifically to get more patients actively involved in their own care.

In her presentation, which was part of the session, “Hot Topics in Radiology,” Ms Somerstein noted that patients recall less than half the information provided to them. Indeed, according to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) 40% to 80% of the medical information patients were told was forgotten immediately, and 50% of the retained information is generally incorrect.

“Understanding patients’ learning styles and finding ways to improve communication between you and your patients will directly improve care,” said Ms Somerstein.

During the session, Ms Somerstein reviewed several adult learning styles and the best approaches to engage with each type of learner. For example, an auditory learner can retain up to 75% of information given to them. The best approach for an auditory learner includes utilizing podcasts, lectures, and classroom-style learning. Other adult learning styles are: visual, linguistic, logical, intra and interpersonal, and kinesthetic.

      Along with evaluating the different adult learning styles, Ms Somerstein also reviewed the definitions associated with a patient’s health literacy (literacy below basic, basic, intermediate, proficient) best practices for patient education success (“establish rapport, ask and answer questions, consider patient concerns”) and useful tips for educating older or younger patients, as well as those with language diversity (“adjust education plan as needed based upon patient feedback”).

Following this review, Ms Somerstein discussed specific resources for developing patient education including:

  •         “The Toolkit for Making Written Material Clear and Effective” from the CMS

  •         “The Always Use Teach-back Toolkit” from the AHRQ

  •          “Health Literacy and Patient Safety: Help Patients Understand” from the AHRQ

  •          “The Patient Education Materials Assessment Tool” from the AHRQ

Ms Somerstein concluded her presentation with key takeaways, including assessing your patient’s readiness to learn and preferences for learning, selecting educational resources that meet the patient’s needs, teaching patients in a way that most closely matches learning style preference, and more.



Somerstein G. Hot topics in radiation oncology: patient education. Presented at: The 48th Annual Oncology Nursing Society Congress; April 26 – 30, 2023; San Antonio, TX. Accessed April 19, 2023.