Caring for Adolescents: A Personal Account of the Nursing Perspective
Rukaiyah Ferguson, RN, BSN
Pediatric Intensive Care Unit
In the Emergency room and Pediatric ICU, I have witnessed a tragic abundance of life – altering emergencies in the adolescent population. I have cared for adolescents that attempted suicide; who battle with drug addiction, contracted sexually transmitted infections and HIV, and/or unwanted pregnancies. I’ve seen young diabetics who, tired of their strenuous daily routine, have stopped complying with treatment, often with near-fatal results. I have helped to revive young victims of motor vehicle accidents and teens whose reckless behavior--driving while intoxicated--caused grave injury to themselves and others. I have witnessed the emergency complications associated with anorexia and bulimia. These largely preventable incidences and illnesses often had long term ramifications, tragedies which would last well into the futures of these young people. My desire to make a difference in these teenagers’ lives inspired me to look back at my own time as an adolescent and to look for ways to communicate with this population. I learned that this stage between childhood and adulthood is in fact a wonderful opportunity for primary preventative care and education, one we must not miss.
Many find adolescents to be one of the most challenging populations to work with in regard to self care and healthy behaviors, due to their egocentric “it won’t happen to me” behavior and their resistance to authority. Adolescents are often skeptical of health care providers and need reassurance that the information they disclose is confidential and that they are truly being heard. When I have established a trusting and mutually respectful relationship with an adolescent patient, I have found them open to working towards better health. Trusting relationships with health care providers, parents or mentors has been proven to be effective in decreasing many high risk behaviors and improving adolescents’ health.
According to Erik Erickson, adolescence is the stage of development when a person establishes their identity or may have role confusion. Parents, health care providers and other significant role models can improve adolescent development and assist them in creating their own identity. Education and open, honest communication will have a real positive effect on the lives and health of teens/ young adults.