By: Douglas E. Masini, EdD, RRT-NPS, RPFT, AE-C, FAARC
When you begin your work as an asthma educator, you must first ask “who is it that I am going to educate?” Identifying the patient is easy; finding their ‘asthma community’ requires a bit of detective work and epidemiology, as they are a critically important group of people who are hidden in plain sight; truly, they are THE answer to the successful deployment of asthma education within an asthma community. By definition, an asthma community would be those individuals who spend the most time around our person diagnosed with asthma, and in theory, we want to teach the basics of asthma care both to the patient and then to their ‘community’. Family members notwithstanding, I try to educate the other important people who spend a lot of time around my patient, such as the bus driver, pre-school teachers, babysitters, coaches and their athletic trainers, clergy or Sunday-school teachers, or interested parent volunteers, anyone can be a member of an asthma community. Then, working with the family physician, we can start to develop an individualized asthma action plan with key action elements that can be observed and acted upon by anyone who cares enough to become a member of the asthma community. You can see that this well-trained asthma community could then extend out further into schools and their parent-teacher organizations, members of a faith-based group or congregation, or the athletic department within a school system. These overlapping ‘asthma communities’ ideally will then include a neighborhood, school, church, or the athletic department, where multiple constituents are knowledgeable about the very basic tenets of asthma care, can visualize the components of asthma, and then dialogue about and be of assistance in an acute breakthrough episode of asthma, or respond to a true asthma emergency. My colleagues in Georgia have decided to focus a lot of our work on the school nurse, who may serve not only as the person who evaluates a person with asthma conditions, but who may also be that student’s asthma care provider in a school-yard emergency. In our seminars we look at how we gather evidence and train our patients and the members of the asthma community that will better prepare them to help protect a patient from an asthma emergency. This investment of time and energy is critical, as school and community-based asthma assessment and intervention are key targets for asthma educators across the United States. In the next few blogs we will identify the basic interventions and expertise that you will teach the members of the ‘asthma community’.
References:Masini, D.E., & Krishnaswamy, G. The challenge of improving the health care literacy of the asthma community. (Editorial). RESPIRCARE 2008; 53;12, 1666. Last accessed December 6, 2013, available at: http://rc.rcjournal.com/content/53/12/1665.full.pdf
Doug is a DMGCME 2014 speaker for the Hearts, Lungs, Chests & Breaths track. See him this June in Walt Disney World, Florida.