National Institute for Reproductive Health
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Adolescent Health Care Communication Program

Projects:

Adolescent-Provider Communications Workshops (APWC)
The Adolescent-Provider Communication Workshops (APCW) consist of two workshops targeted at health care providers and teens.

The first is “Keepin’ It Real With Your Doctor,” an interactive and inspiring presentation in which trained teen educators inform their peers about their health care rights such as confidentiality, emotional support, and accurate, thorough sexual education. This empowers them to take advantage of the knowledge, advice, and treatment that health care providers can offer.

Its counterpart, “Keeping It Real With Your Patients,” is presented to health care providers. Utilizing handouts, skits, and group discussions, the adolescent educators respond to the providers’ questions and dispel their misconceptions about what teens want and need at the doctor’s office. The workshop helps the providers develop stronger rapports with their adolescent patients by teaching them about the importance of confidentiality and a non-judgmental attitude. The teen educators also offer the providers advice on how to adjust their body language, lingo, and communication style so as to better connect with their teenage patients. Adolescents who feel comfortable will be more forthcoming about their risky behaviors and more receptive to their providers’ counsel, enabling the provider to offer more effective care.

Adolescent Standardized Patient Project (ASPP)
While powerful on their own, the workshops also made it clear that providers need more than lectures on adolescent health care; they need actual opportunities to practice interacting with real teens. The Adolescent Standardized Patient Project (ASPP) offers providers this hands-on training. Standardized patients (SPs) have become an integral component of health care education in the past three decades, offering providers a chance to practice their interpersonal skills in an environment that safely mimics the realities of clinical practice. Adolescent Standardized Patients (ASPs) are, however, an underutilized tool for improving adolescent health care and the well-being of the next generation. Misconceptions of adolescent incompetence has led health care educators to avoid training actual teens to portray teenage standardized patients despite research documenting the success of such programs preferring instead to have adult actors “perform” as youth. Residency programs that use adults to portray adolescents lose the critical opportunity to interface directly with this population.

The National Institute realized that the TORCH Peer Education program constituted an ideal demographic from which to recruit and train ASPs. The peer educators represent a range of racial, ethnic, gender, religious and socioeconomic backgrounds, and are well trained in issues of sexual health and doctor-patient communications. Teens in youth programs across the country will be similarly well-suited for adolescent standardized patient work.