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In the world of Physical Therapy, like many other professions, education is a large component. We teach so many things to our patients. We teach them about movement mechanics, tissue healing, and pain science. We teach them anatomy, proper exercise form, the benefits of exercise, and many other facts for healthy living. The patient education component to our profession is, what I think, sets us apart from many other health care professions.
Many of the topics that we teach to our patients are complex and can be difficult to understand and we have to be sensitive to all types of ages and educational levels. So, how can we take many of these big concepts and make them more tangible? Enter analogies.
Analogies are a literary device in which a comparison is made between two things for the purpose of explanation and clarification. They are helpful in making more difficult or abstract ideas easier to understand. This is crucial to helping our patients understand their mechanical or physiological problems and without it, can leave the patient questioning if an intervention is necessary. When a patient truly understands the “why” well, compliance is certain to follow.
So, what are some keys to creating good analogies? Here are two that I have thought about and learned from one of my colleagues who is really good and creating analogies for patient education.
Keep it simple. We don’t want to get too wordy because then the comparison can get lost. We want to share the comparison in a simple way with simple language that really highlights the comparison to bring better and more complete understanding.
Make it Relatable. This is where one of my colleagues really excels. He can convey his education concepts with the perfect analogy tailored to the patient. So, for example, it wouldn’t necessarily benefit an athlete to use the language of a welder. And likewise, we would want to try to explain a therapy concept using the characteristics of plumbing to a patient who is a plumber and not a pilot. And if you can’t come up with a career or work specific analogy, that’s OK. Just make sure that it is something generally relatable that most individuals would understand.
It’s also important to pick up analogies from your colleagues. I’ve incorporated many analogies that I have heard from others that resonate with patients. I think analogy sharing is an important part of clinic cohesion and that translates to patient experience. So, what are some of the analogies that you use when educating patients on certain topics? Let’s share!
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