Supporting Teen Privacy
Adolescent visits to the doctor are much different from examinations for younger children. We respect that teens often have a special need for privacy and may have health questions that they would like to discuss alone. Therefore, during adolescent physicals (age thirteen years and older), we like to provide teens with the opportunity to meet with the doctor without their parent present. As health care providers, we are ethically bound to keep information private as requested by our teenage patients with some exceptions. If we are ever worried for the immediate health and safety of any teenager, we will notify their parent or guardian immediately.
During an exam, a parent will usually accompany a teen to the exam room to meet with the doctor or nurse practitioner for the initial part of the visit. This is the time when parents may ask any questions of special concern about their teen’s health. Parents then return to the waiting room while the teen finishes their discussion and physicial examination with the provider. This period of time is very important for teenagers, as young adults, to learn to communicate independently about health concerns with the doctor or nurse practitioner.
All SVPAM providers support and encourage open communication between teenagers and their parents. A parent knows their child better than anyone else and will set the guiding rules and principles on their path to adulthood. We also view ourselves as having a role in educating and helping teens make healthy choices for themselves. Topics covered in teen visits may include interests/activities, home life, school performance, dating, sex and sexuality (including abstinence & safer sex, and/or concerns about gender), substance use or experimentation, and issues around stress, moods or anxiety. These topics are discussed universally and we make no pre-judgments about a particular teen’s involvement (or not) in any of these areas.
We encourage all parents to have ongoing discussions of these topics with their teenage children. It may feel uncomfortable, but gets easier with time.
Once a teenager turns 18 years of age, he/she is legally an adult and we are bound by law to keep all medical encounters confidential. We still encourage openness between parents & teens. We ask the adult patient to complete a “release of information” form so that we can continue to share information, in a limited way, with parents.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to talk with us about the process. We are here for you!