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Health Care Settings

Tailored experience for youth-serving professionals in health care settings

Reaching Teens Portal for Health Care Settings

Kenneth R. Ginsburg, MD, MS Ed, FAAP, FSAHM

Professor of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania; Director of Health Services, Covenant House Pennsylvania; Founding Director, Center for Parent and Teen Communication

Zachary Brett Ramirez McClain, MD

Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Perelman School of Medicine of the University of Pennsylvania


Reaching Teens prepares us to address health with a big H. It guides us how to be the kind of adults young people deserve in their lives as they work towards being healthier physically, emotionally, and behaviorally. Here, we hope to guide you as a health care professional how to get the most out of this toolkit with the smallest investment of your time. However, the entire toolkit remains available for your use and we genuinely hope that after you have followed this tailored pathway, you’ll find the time to explore all that Reaching Teens offers.

Health care professionals often are the unspoken front lines of youth service. We may be the first to note the depth of a young person’s distress—if we know what to look for.

When young people can find their words they speak to parents or teachers before they get to us. Then, they are referred to us as the gateway to mental, emotional, and behavioral services. Many young people, however, cannot find their words and present instead with their bodies. Their aching bodies, fatigue, or dizziness serve as clues that stress is affecting their well-being. We can catch these young people before they may spiral downward, if we know how to connect with them, have a grasp on which questions to ask, and can address somatization without shame or stigma. Our role as change-agents is solidified when we can refer to next steps of care using strength-based language. ( A special shout out here for school nurses who work where adolescents first present and who are especially critical for those youth whose parents may not access another health care setting!)

Other youth present with signs of depression, but it may be only health care professionals that advocate for them being viewed through this lens. Many parents, and even some youth-serving professionals, lack the understanding that in childhood and adolescence, depression can present with disruptive behaviors and rage rather than sadness. When we are at the table, we can help people better understand this.

Your interface with adolescents really depends on your precise role within health care. Therefore, how you’ll benefit most from the toolkit depends most on your role. We will create here pathways for three types of health care professionals. Click the one that best describes you.

  • Professionals who serve adolescents clinically in routine clinical visits. This group will be most interested in setting up an adolescent-friendly practice and having the skillsets that will optimize their impact.
  • Professionals who serve adolescents clinically, but who interface with them for extended periods. These professionals, such as hospital-based nurses, need all of the skillsets to optimize their impact and need additional behavioral skillsets to help adolescents stay emotionally regulated.
  • Health educators and public health professionals. These professionals hold as a goal to convey information in a way most likely to affect behavioral change.


Professionals Who Serve Adolescents Clinically

This pathway focuses on supporting you to set up an adolescent-friendly practice and to have the skillsets that will optimize your impact. The information in this portal can support efforts at quality improvement if you seek to implement standards better aligned with adolescent best practices. You may find it helpful in designing maintenance of certification projects.


Professionals Who Serve Adolescents Clinically, but Who Interface With Them for Extended Periods

These professionals, such as hospital-based nurses or health professionals serving within schools, or social service agencies, need all of the skill sets to optimize their impact and need additional behavioral skil-sets to help adolescents stay emotionally regulated. You should look at those chapters that were in the previous section for Professionals Who Serve Adolescents Clinically. You may find that some of those chapters that are focused on creating or building a youth-serving environment do not apply to you, but most will. However, you deserve an additional focus on how to help young people behave appropriately in your settings. Therefore, the following section on building self-regulation skills can be particularly useful.


Health Educators and Public Health Professionals

 This pathway focuses on elements useful to your ability to effectively communicate with young people.

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