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Agenda Setting


Agenda setting helps to enhance patient-educator relationships by respecting the time and expectations of both educators and patients. Please review the information below in order to better manage topics and issues covered in client appointments. An added bonus, is that these skills assist in time management.

Shaking hands

1. What Effective Agenda Setting Does

  • Helps you and your client focus on priorities
  • Respects both your clients expectations as well as your own
  • Helps with time management

2. Components and a sample script

 An agenda includes the following:

  • Your name and position
  • Length of the appointment
  • General purpose of the visit
  • Educator agenda items
  • Client agenda items
  • Plans for how to address items if time runs out
  • Asking "How do you feel about that?"


Writing agenda

Sample Agenda Script:


"Hi I'm Brittany, one of the dietitians. *We'll be together for about 45 minutes today, if that suits you... (client comments)

Today is a "get to know you" session where I ask a number of questions about your health and diabetes to find out how we can help you. I also want to learn what you want to talk about. Then we'll make a plan for how to address everything - for example you can have more appointments, phone calls, handouts, online education or in-person classes. How does that sound?...(client comments)"

What would you like to put on the agenda to discuss?



  • An agenda is both verbal and written.
  • Write down all topics/questions before starting to address them.
    • Often a patient's most pressing issue is mentioned last.
    • Some questions may be related, and can be grouped.
  • The agenda may require re-negotiation throughout the appointment, if needed.



3. The agenda is a shared responsibility

Negotiate and triage agenda priorities. It’s important to recognize that both you and the client have a responsibility to set and re-negotiate the agenda during the visit. Try the following if there are too many agenda items to address during the visit, or if time is running short:

  • “You’ve said that __"client issue"__ is your priority today. However, I notice that __" clinician priority"__, and I’m concerned for you. Would you agree to discussing that first”?

  • "You've said that ___"client issue 1"__   is your  priority today. However, I notice you are also interested in __"client issue 2 and 3"__ .  I want to make the best use of our time. Which would you like to discuss today and which would you like us to set aside for another day? I might be able to give you some handouts on one of them in the meantime."

  • If time runs short, "I’ll give you some information on__"client issue"__ either with a handout, online education website, class or I’ll refer you to an appropriate resource. Of course, we can also book another appointment soon, just to discuss your topic.”



4. If the appointment gets off track

Try one of the following:

  • Do it:  Address the issue today.
    • For example: "Would you like to talk about that now instead of your original agenda item?"
  • Defer it: Plan time to address it later.
    • For example: "Would you like to add "B" to the agenda for later, so we don't run out of time for "A"?
  • Refer it: Refer to another resource (handout, website, person, class, service...)
    • "I can give you handouts on that topic and spend time on your original agenda item if you'd like. When you come for your next appointment, we could discuss this new topic if you still have questions. How does that suit you?"


5. Resources