Talking To Teens, Even When They Ignore You

Teenage patient issues can be a dermatologist’s nightmare: unrealistic expectations, poor compliance, and little or no patience for anything less than instant gratification—yesterday.

courtesy of flickr user Glasgow Street Art (creative commons)

But few aspects of medicine are more satisfying than breaking through the barrier with a teen patient, according to Dr. Hilary Baldwin, vice chair and associate professor of dermatology at the State University of New York in Brooklyn, N.Y.

At this year’s Orlando Dermatology Aesthetic and Clinical Conference, Dr. Baldwin shared some anecdotes and tips for talking to teens.

–Keep at it. Just because a teen isn’t looking at you doesn’t mean they aren’t listening. Even if that 14-year-old boy seems more interested in the mechanism of his chair than in what you are saying, keep talking.

–Minimize distractions. That chair may be interesting, but it is no iPod. Dr. Baldwin said she insists that her teen patients refrain from wearing hats, sunglasses, or earphones, and desist from texting, chewing gum, or sprawling on the exam table.

–Talk to the teen, not to the parent. Give teens the option to have their parents in the exam room, but if a parent is present be sure to keep talking to the teen, said Dr. Baldwin. But friends definitely stay in the waiting room, and (ideally) so do siblings, she said.

–Give teens some control. Dr. Baldwin advised letting teens make decisions about factors such as the vehicle of a skin care product (cream or gel, etc.) to improve compliance. And make sure teens know that you aren’t forcing a treatment on them. Instead, try suggesting “I will be here to help when you are ready.”

–Other tips to boost teen compliance: Avoid morning use products if possible, and be liberal in giving sample-sized products so they can be carried in every backpack, purse, or coat pocket. Dr. Baldwin also recommends taping a tube of skin product to the  computer monitor at home to improve compliance.

–Heidi Splete (@hsplete on twitter)

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Filed under Dermatology, Family Medicine, IMNG, Internal Medicine, Pediatrics, The Mole

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