The Many Literacies in Healthcare

I’m obsessed with understanding the context of things…

I know that that’s how I got into anthropology before I landed in nursing.

And that’s one of my goals with Saving Nurses—to help nurses gain insights into the healthcare system and our nursing practice.


Today I would like to mention some dots that I just connected for myself that speak to the context of healthcare that deeply impacts nursing and each of us.

The need for different literacies across healthcare.

One of the biggest overarching problems in healthcare today is literacy…. Literacy of many things. For example:

#1 Health and Healthcare Literacies –

There is NO WAY a patient/family who does not have an inside track to how the healthcare system works can understand and negotiate the system well. Nor can a patient/family understand how our healthcare minds work or what our native clinical language means.

How many times have we seen that blank expression, and then the anguished expression come over our patients’ and loved ones’ faces when they are faced with the biggest realities and decisions of their lives….

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That’s why I’m so impressed with the work of AIM programs—Advanced Illness Management. These programs are designed around providing health literacy to those patients and families who are experiencing ongoing illnesses and/or chronic diseases.

This helps them gain health literacy and healthcare literacy in the process. This makes for better experiences, better decisions, and happier lives.

The same can be said for another one of my pet projects and that is POLST—Physician Orders Life-Sustaining Treatment. These programs educate the public on the importance and use of POLST documents. Having POLSTs in place when a family member enters the doors of our healthcare system can be a lifesaver or a sacred death creator, whichever is the right thing for the time. Here again, these programs provide health literacy and healthcare literacy.


# 2 Caring Literacy

Now I’m learning about Caring Literacy. This too is an eye opener. Caring literacy is an outgrowth of caring science. This literacy reflects the complete nature of caring. It provides the sources, experiences and examples of the intersection between nurses’ clinical technological competencies and our emotional-intellectual literacy of human caring skills. This literacy is for nurses… to give us insights into what we do and how we touch the lives of others.

This is literacy worth learning and understanding that will benefit all of healthcare,

and those of us who provide and receive caring.

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