Huppert pushes government to take teenager’s advice

8 November, 2012 No Comments

MP Julian Huppert is pushing the government to put a Cambridge teenager’s advice for the medical profession in every hospital in the country.

Jessica Platt, 17, a pupil at Hills Road Sixth Form College, has written a booklet, Teens in Hospital, designed to improve communication between staff and teenagers staying in hospital.

At just 16, she spent three days in an adult ward in Cambridge’s Addenbrooke’s Hospital with pneumonia and said that, while the care was amazing, staff lacked confidence in interacting with her.

Julian met Jessica to discuss her work after her grandmother, Hilary Mansfield, sent him a copy of the teaching resource.

Now he has urged Health Minister, Jeremy Hunt to put the booklet in every hospital and meet Jessica to discuss how here idea can be taken forward.

Jessica, the over 16 chairperson of ACTIVE, a board of eight to 18-year-olds working to improve hospitals for young people, said: “I wanted to understand why members of the clinical staff suffered a gap in confidence when it came to interacting with me, what were the causes and how it could be fixed.

“I can’t fault the treatment I received; it was brilliant. But it was scary being in an adult ward and I felt like an alien in an adult environment.

“When I asked if my mum could stay with me, they didn’t know how to handle it. There was no bed for her so she had to sleep in a chair. We ended up sharing my small bed together and neither of us got any sleep. When I went to the concourse on the second day to get a coffee, the staff told me I clearly wasn’t ill and my mum couldn’t stay.

“Going into an adult ward was quite traumatic for me and I decided I wanted to give the staff the tools to make them feel more comfortable when dealing with teenagers.”

Jessica read books on parenting teenagers and the teenage brain and conducted surveys among young people and medical staff including anesthetists and general surgeons.

From her research, she wrote hints and tips on how to talk to teens in a way that makes them more likely to listen and hopefully make it easier for everyone when 16 to 18-year-olds are admitted to hospital.

Her work, which was completed as part of a college Extended Project, includes reference to the fact that teens are reluctant to make eye contact and very often conduct conversations while listening to their music through headphones.

Julian said: “I was very impressed with Jessica’s work. It showed a really intelligent approach to addressing an issue that has the potential to make teenagers and hospital staff feel uncomfortable.

“Being admitted to hospital can be stressful at any age but for teenagers surrounded by adults they don’t know can be frightening. Jessica has put forward some practical suggestions on how to make it more comfortable for everyone concerned.

“I hope the government will take these on board and make her booklet available across the country. It’s a highly valuable teaching resource from a young person who has first-hand knowledge of this issue.”

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