American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Statement on Principles of Patient Education

The critical role of patients and their significant others as integral members of surgical teams is essential to delivering optimum and safe surgical care. Active involvement of patients as partners in care can increase compliance and decrease complications through early identification of risks. The American Board of Medical Specialties and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education have both emphasized the important role of patients within the context of the core competencies.1 Patients need to possess the requisite knowledge and skills to contribute effectively to their care, and patient education is key in this regard.

The American College of Surgeons (ACS) supports the Patients Bill of Rights2 and the recommendations of the Institute of Medicine,3 that have underscored the rights and responsibilities of patients to fully participate in their care. Patients need to be provided with education to help them in decisions regarding their operations, and to help them effectively participate in the surgical experience and contribute to their continuing care. Patient education materials should be based on contemporary principles of surgical education and evidence-based medicine, and tailored to the specific needs of the individual patient.

The ACS supports

  • Assessing the individual needs of each patient and focusing specifically on various cultural, gender, age, and literacy issues
  • Designing and implementing individually tailored, scientifically sound patient education that addresses the essential domains of knowledge, skills, and attitudes; focuses on coping mechanisms; and assesses achievement of educational objectives through valid and reliable methods
  • Utilizing appropriate methods to involve the patient and confirm the patient’s comprehension during the process of obtaining informed consent
  • Providing instructions to patients and their significant others that are comprehensive and address home care skills, pain management, dietary recommendations, lifestyle modifications, follow-up care, and symptoms and signs that need to be brought to the attention of the surgeon and the surgical team
  • Improving the ease of access to accurate patient education information from the ACS and other professional organizations
  • Collaborating with other professional organizations on approaches to enhance patient education and sharing of relevant and easily comprehensible educational materials
  • Evaluating the impact of patient education on patient care using well-designed scientific methods
  • Promoting the science and practice of patient education


  1. Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education: Outcome Project: General Competencies. Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education Web site. Internet (, retrieved February 9, 2006.
  2. President’s Advisory Commission of Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry: Appendix A: Consumer Bill of Rights and Responsibilities. Final Report. President’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry Web site. Internet (, retrieved January 3, 2006.
  3. Institute of Medicine: Report Brief: Crossing the Quality Chasm: A New Health System for the 21st Century. National Academy of Science. Institute of Medicine Web site. Internet (, retrieved January 16, 2006.


Reprinted from Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons
Vol.91, No. 8, August 2006