Guest Post by Dominique Viel, www.invisiyouthcharity.com
By definition, pediatric healthcare is for children but teens, by their own definition, are not like children. There is a true gap in healthcare as young people begin to fall into the 13-25 age group, specifically with the relationship they have with their medical teams and the role they play as a patient. The older that teen/young adult patients get in pediatrics, the more ill-fitting the environment appears and yet, when they transition into adult healthcare, they are too young to easily handle what adults twice their age are discussing.
This lack of a medical ‘place of belonging’ can be extremely problematic for many young people as they deal with various chronic illnesses and injuries. For some, they have been followed by a team of pediatric doctors for their lifelong illnesses since they were infants, and the shift from childcare to teenage-care can be challenging. The unfortunate side-effect of pediatric medical settings is that as patients get older, the environment remains the same, and it doesn’t fit what these young adults really need. Teens are coming into their own, learning how to harness their own voice and discovering their passions and opinions. While as young kids, they needed their parents and guardians to assist them in the doctor’s office, as teens, they have their own voice and opinion on their treatment plans. Unfortunately, many of teens deal with what I call ‘the Ping-Pong effect’ which is when doctors pass all their questions and commentary over the teen patients to the guardians, completely disregarding what the teen patient really wants from their treatment. The conversation is directed over them and they do not learn how to be their own advocate or get to explain how these treatments really affect their overall life.
Now as teens and young adults, they have a full comprehension of what they are missing out on in life, everything in their life that has been forced to change and all the clubs, sports and activities they have needed to give up for their health. Due to this understanding, teen pediatrics is different from their younger counterparts because the removal of choice allows them to dwell on all the ways their illnesses and injuries have traumatically affected their ‘normal’ teenage lifestyle. The teens and young adults in pediatric medical settings oftentimes lack the encouragement to have a voice in their healthcare, and an active role in the structure of their treatment plans within their constantly evolving and complex lives.
It is the transition into adult healthcare, with a new team of doctors, that can bring new anxiety and stress for these young adults because they have to leave the comfort and safety of medical clinicians who are well-versed in their medical history and start over with individuals completely new to them. Add on the new physical aesthetic of adult hospitals and outpatient offices and the emphasis on patient control that continues to make young people feel out of place. They have always had the safety of their family members with them in pediatrics and now adult healthcare flips the switch and assumes these teens/young adults are completely educated on their medical history, understand their health insurance and have perfect ability to answer questions and comprehend suggestions. These young adults are now the sole owner of their medical story and thrust into the driver’s seat, into a world that is designed for older individuals.
To answer anyone’s question when it comes to the issues teens and young adults with illnesses and injuries face, yes, there is a blatant gap that this age group falls into between the end of their pediatric treatment and the transition into adult healthcare. They have unique needs and lifestyles that not only need to be better understood but also require medical professionals that enhance their treatment in order to better understand what is classified as the teen/young adult patient voice.
About Dominique Viel:
I am a graduate from Saint Joseph’s University with BA’s in English-Writing and International Relations. From personal health experiences and my work as a youth stakeholder on different pediatric health grants, I saw the need to help the teenage/young adult pediatric health community live life through illness and raise awareness on those battling invisible illnesses. Founded in 2015, InvisiYouth Charity is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that helps teens and young adults with various chronic illnesses gain the right educational tools, empowerment, and events to learn how to keep living life while battling illness and also educating pediatric medical professionals how to better understand this unique older patient demographic. To learn more, visit our website www.invisiyouthcharity.com and follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @invisiyouth.
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