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Nutrition education is at least 75% marketing!
I want to give you the deets on the number one must-have bulletin board material. Before I get to that, I need to explain why I care.
Every dialysis clinic I have ever worked in has a bulletin board, or several of them. Usually at least one of them is dedicated to patient education. Generally the renal dietitian is in charge of some sort of monthly display (if she has time!). I have worked in several clinics over the years and the monthly bulletin board is always one of my favorite tasks. Why? I believe the bulletin board is an incredible conversation starter among patients as well as a way to generate new interest in old topics that had been repeated over and over and over again (like phosphorus). I view my bulletin board as my billboard. It is the way to sell the nutrition information that I so firmly believe can really help each of my dialysis patients. I’m pretty sure my best education comes when I think of it as a marketing campaign rather than a monthly education. I have another post about that coming up… but for now wanted to let you know what materials I use to structure my boards.
FIVE Key Materials for a Board that Wows!
I’ve had big boards and little boards to work with. No matter the size, I discovered there are essentially 5 elements I plan for in all my boards:
- Prominent title
- Color, color, color
- Large font sizes, less words
Use a prominent title, preferably with a catchy phrase. The title starts the conversation and creates interest in the education. For example, “Rockin’ Resolutions” is way more fun then “Healthy New Year’s Resolutions.” Die cut letters are a great bulletin board material to keep on hand. I use 4-inch die cut letters to quickly generate a bold, easily readable title. You can also get adhesive letters rather than just the die cut. I don’t like those quite as much because if I make a mistake with my spacing they are harder to move. You can also print individual words with a VERY large font (like 150-200), but I don’t think it looks as nice. Here are two precut letters from Amazon that I like:
- Learning Tree 4-Inch Die Cut Letters in 4 colors. This is a common brand I use a lot. It is all caps so keep that in mind. Also, each color only has 2 “P”s. That might matter if your title include the word “phosphorus,” which would use all your P’s. I know that is a funny side-note, but I’ve had to change my catchy phrase more than once because I ran out of P’s… lol.
- Dr. Seuss Punch Out Reusable Decorative 4-Inch Letters, Blue, Set of 200. I like these letters because they have both uppercase and lowercase options (that means more P’s!)
Maybe I’m crazy for color, but I really like swapping out the background when I can. New colors transform a waiting room (You’re part RD, part interior decorator now!). I used paper for pretty much all my bulletin boards for A LONG time. It’s a pain to switch out, but I do it any ways. The one time I don’t change out paper is in November/December, because I like to use a heavy brown paper for the backdrop. It’s can work nice for both Thanksgiving and Christmas (and December always feels like the month with the biggest crunch so I minimize extra tasks). That being said, I recently discovered a game-changer for me: Better Than Paper Bulletin Board backdrops. I feel completely geeky with how much I adore this product. It is the must-have bulletin board material for your clinic! It is similar to vinyl on the front and cloth-paper on the back (How do I describe it???). Here is why I really like it and think it is well worth the $15 investment:
- It is thick, easy to set-up, and doesn’t wrinkle.
- You can reuse it a million times without all the annoying and ugly pin or staple holes you get with paper.
- It works really well with sticky tack so I can easily rearrange my boards as I put them up.
- Once I am done with a backdrop I can neatly roll it up and pull it out when I need it again. It doesn’t crinkle or wrinkle like paper does so my boards can stay looking fresh.
- It is easier to attach to my boards. I hate wrestling paper that rips or wrinkles as I try to square it with the board!
Essential? I don’t know if essential, but it sure made the boards look a lot better! They aren’t expensive. I generally get the six pack of borders on Amazon here. Using a border is a great way to bring in extra color or pizzazz. I generally stick with a solid color so it isn’t distracting, but on occasion, I like to add some sparkly borders. Also, it is nice to not have to be exact when cutting the background because I know I can hide my crooked lines or gaps with a border.
Color, Color, Color
I try as much as possible to use loads of color for my bulletin boards. If I have a color printer that is easy because I print all my pictures in color and it ends up being very colorful. Not all my units over the years gave me free access to their color printers so I had a few other creative ways of getting great color on my board.
If you don’t have a color printer…
- Cut pictures from magazines. I really like food magazines so I have a few subscriptions (FYI, they aren’t expensive). When I see a kidney-friendly food, I cut it out and keep it for an upcoming board.
- Food picture flashcards can be useful and not too expensive. Here are two sets with large-sized pictures that I like.
- Make pictures from plain construction paper. For example, for a chicken drumstick, I cut out the meat from brown and the bone from white and glue together.
- Bring in actual wrappers from the store. This works great if you’re doing a board that highlights real products, for example protein bars or low sodium snacks (which now that I’m thinking about it would make a great future board….)
- Don’t be ashamed to pull out your crayons or markers! Yes, sometimes I even color my pictures to get in color. Here is a picture where you can see I colored the fish, drumstick, and steak. (This was from a lobby day “Fair” where we focused on different elements of the diet and had games or samples for patients to try).
Large font sizes, less words
Font size and font type are really important for a bulletin board. If you use a small font size, your patients won’t see your message (aka watch out for just printing out powerpoints!) I also avoid artistic or cursive fonts which are also difficult to read. I like non-traditional font types, but I try to keep them in block, not cursive or artistic fonts. Generally speaking Comic Sans is the most readable font, but I’ve used a variety. Here is my general matrix for font size. If I can go bigger, I always do:
|Item||Font Size (For boards patients can’t get up close to)||Font Size (if you think your patients are going to get close to read your board…)|
|Main Body Text||32||16-18|
You can read more about fonts at sciencebuddies.com (seriously this is an awesome, well-detailed post on making your board super readable!)
The last piece I try to keep in mind is to use as few words as possible. Some bulletin boards are “wordier” then others, but for the most part I try to keep my message picture-focused with a one sentence caption. Pictures will incite far more conversation than words. AND, I like to use pictures to showcase really beautiful kidney-friendly food (remember how I think nutrition education is 75% marketing!). I feel this same principle applies to patient education handouts (which is why I have the Renal Education Library, because to make really great education with loads of pictures I had to make my own!)
See It In Action!
You can see how I’ve applied these principles by checking out the many bulletin boards on the blog. Many of of the files you can get for free through the renal education library by scrolling down to the freebie section of the Renal Education Library. You can also download many of the files through RD2RD.com by following this link to visit my vendor site.
What do you do to make your bulletin boards eye-catching and fun? I’d love to hear more to share with other renal dietitians.