This may seem like a basic suggestion, but many young adults haven’t had to access healthcare on their own while living at home.
Even if they have, it’s likely they’ve been seeing a pediatrician – a doctor who specializes in care of children. Pediatricians usually end patient care after the age of 18. Missouri-based pediatrician Dr. Natasha Burgert says she’s no longer surprised when a 20-something calls her office asking where they should go to handle a sore throat. Her experience echoes what researchers found in 2015 that “many young adults face serious challenges in accessing and navigating the healthcare system, with potentially serious repercussions.” While young adults are generally considered a healthy group, there may be emergencies, or non-emergencies, that require medical attention.
If your teen is heading off to a four-year university, many campuses have student health centers. Some of these centers even offer low or no-cost care for enrolled students. Before you leave them on campus, you may want to make sure they know where the health center is, and ensure the phone number is programmed in a phone or otherwise accessible place.
If your teen is attending a community college or other training program, either you or your teen may want to check with the institution directly. Depending on the college or program they may offer student health centers similar to those found at four-year universities.
If your teen doesn’t have a student health center, or if they are staying at home, taking a gap year, or heading into the workforce, you may still want to raise a few questions. Is there a general practitioner that the adults in your family regularly see? That can be one option for your teen if they’re staying nearby. If they’re not staying, is there a friend or family member who could recommend a clinic or doctor in the area your teen is headed?
Your teen should also know where the closest emergency room and urgent care centers are. Emergency rooms are usually open all the time, and are only for emergencies, like a car accident or a serious head injury. Urgent care centers are a great option for seeing a doctor in off-hours or when a primary care physician isn’t available. Examples of what constitutes an ER visit versus urgent care visit can be found on New York’s Mount Sinai website here.
Regardless of where they’re going, if your teen knows where to find care on their own, it can help ease the stress of trying to track down that information when they are in need of medical attention.