Strategies for Serving Youth
Creating an Ideal Medical Setting for Youth
The second decade of life is associated with biological, physical, psychosocial, emotional, developmental, and behavioral changes that differentiate pediatric from adolescent health care. Adolescents are among the most challenging patients to engage into care, but with preparation and vigilance, improved success with this population can be achieved. Key questions to ask of your practice include:
- Are you aware of local laws pertaining to the care of minors?
- Do you respect the confidentiality of adolescents and have you thought through what information you will share between your adolescent patients and their parents or guardians?
- Have you established with your adolescent patients and their parents or guardians that you sometimes examine and speak with your young patients privately?
- Does your staff and overall practice environment exude a sensitive, nonbiased attitude toward all youth, irrespective of gender, ethnicity, culture, or sexual identity?
- Are you aware of signs among youth of common mental health, substance abuse, and eating disorders?
- If you do not have personnel on-site who can address all normal adolescent concerns comfortably and comprehensively, have you established a referral network of youth-friendly providers who can fill any service gaps?
- Do you really like young people and not simply tolerate them?
Adolescents, especially minority youth, are among those most vulnerable to health care disparities. Affirmative answers to these key questions provide a foundation for establishing a successful "medical home" or youth-friendly clinic for young people. Specific strategies will be outlined throughout the modules in this series.