June 28, 2016

Teen Guidelines on How to Treat Young Patients

This is something you don't often see in print. I will give the Armstrong Institute of Johns Hopkins Medicine credit for being this bold, but I have reservations that a lot of this is still not happening. This is quoted from their newsletter. I will have my comments in the last of three blogs.

The Teenage Patient Wish ListJohns Hopkins Children’s Center
Teen and Youth Advisory Council
  1. Smile, introduce yourself and call me by the name I wish to be called. A smile goes a long way. It is much easier to talk to you when you smile at me. It helps put me at ease. I like to be called by my first name. Many teens may have nicknames that make them feel more comfortable. We want the hospital to have a more personal feel and not be so formal. Calling me by my last name makes me feel old. A simple ask goes a long way. It will start our relationship on the right foot.
  1. Be on time. Whether I’m inpatient or outpatient, waiting is hard. It is hard enough to come here, and to know that I may have to be here twice as long makes me dread it more. It also makes me not want to share things because it will make my stay longer.
  1. Communicate with me. Yes, me. I am here in the room too. I may not be an adult yet, but I want you to explain things to me in a way I understand as well. It is OK to talk to my parents; sometimes it is OK for you to even talk to them first. Just remember that I also want you to give me information in a way I can understand and encourage me to ask questions.
  1. Know my whole medical history if able. Just because I am here for one thing doesn’t mean there are no other things that you should know about me. It is important to me that you are thoughtful about all things about me. If you are treating my belly, it doesn’t mean my lung problems are not important. Just remember the “whole” me.
  1. Give me frequent updates. Waiting for answers is really hard. I may not tell you that I am worried, but I am. I even sometimes will make up my own answers. When giving the updates, it is helpful when they are detailed. I want as much information as you know. When you are vague, I tend to make up my own answers and think you are just trying not to tell me something. It is better to say you don’t know then to say nothing at all.
  1. Take a walk in my shoes. If even for just a brief moment, consider what it must be like for me sitting in your clinic or in my hospital bed. I would much rather be playing soccer, performing in my high school musical, attending my prom. I am missing “normal things in my teenage life.” I don’t expect you to fully understand or remember, but knowing for that brief moment you are going to consider it is helpful.
  1. Don’t rush. I know you are busy. I know you have many other important places to be and things to do, but when you take your time and hide how busy you are it makes me feel more comfortable. I also worry if you are rushing that you are going to forget something or miss something. Thank you for the time you are willing to give me.
  1. Distractions are helpful. All the things you offer, like Xbox, movies, games and Bingo, help me feel like I am not in the hospital. They make me feel more normal. I will probably turn you down sometimes, but please don’t stop offering. Knowing that you are trying also lets me know that you care.
  1. Keep my space clean. When things are clean and organized around me, it makes me feel better. I don’t want to worry about getting an infection. I always hear people say that hospitals have germs, so anything you do to show me you are trying to protect me makes me feel at ease — for example, cleaning my room every day and washing your hands.
  2. It helps when you comfort me and my whole family. We are not always going to be able to smile in return. Sometimes we are going to have a bad day. Sometimes we may even cry. It is OK to comfort us and acknowledge our feelings, even if it is uncomfortable. Sometimes we need our space, but also comfort us when it looks like we need it.

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