A year at U of R

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Sunday, October 22, 2006

Talking to teens

One of my biggest challenges so far in working with teens has been communication.

The past week, I was taking care of two teens, and neither one gave me more than a few words in response to anything I asked all morning. Even eye contact was a rare event. Most of the time, their eyes were riveted on the TV , their x-box games, or People magazine. They weren’t impolite, but they seemed to regard me as a necessary evil that they’d tolerate if they had to have their vitals checked.

I missed having some kind of contact or bond with my patients. I began to feel like no more than a medicine-dispensing robot. Where was the human interaction? I wondered if this was what real nursing was like on the floor, if you have six patients, and no time to even remember their names. Or are teens as a species just silent and uncommunicative?

So after lunch, I decided to bite the bullet, and see if with some determination, I could get past the Ninetendo and nail polish world that these kids live in. I walked into one of their rooms, and asked if I could talk with them.

I basically stood in the room and had a conversation with myself for what seemed like an hour. Then, finally, a miracle happened. The teen asked me which movie stars I liked. It was a major break-through. I realize now, though, that it takes more than a morning to build trust with a teenager. I also realize that their silence may communicate a lot if you listen. Their silence may be saying that what they really want is a chance to talk.