Adolescent Friendly Staff Training & Sensitisation

For effective adolescent health care, health care providers and researchers need to be adept at interpersonal communication with adolescents that emphasises openness, trust and respect for confidentiality as it is important that adolescents see healthcare clinics as a safe place to obtain information and a place where they can go in crises.

Adolescent friendly service is important whether it is provided as part of a research project or it is a part of general health care. In a research project it would be advisable to ensure that there is a training manual or training offered to staff or peer supporters for the treatment of adolescents during your project. Peer helpers will be able to provide insight into the process and will respond well to being consulted.

Adolescent healthcare service checklist:

  • Non-judgmental attitude, and relaxed approach – Any hint of stigmatization or judgement will lead to suspicion.
  • Staff continuity and competency – Relationships are key, especially with counselling.
  • Peer involvement (support staff) – Provide peer support within the healthcare points of service. Peers are able to provide insights into adolescent health service needs.
  • Comprehensive holistic service (not fragmentation) This means that there are other health services available on the same site.
  • Flexible service hours and affordable are important to adolescents.
  • Accessibility including accommodation of walk-in (no -appointment) to provide speed.
  • Procedures and processes should be quick and easy to use.
  • Privacy and confidentiality – including health points of service that allow privacy of access.
  • Psychosocial support – Support from home or intimate partner helps a lot
  • Provide information about services and health conditions.

Managing expectations

What are adolescents’ expectations when they go to a healthcare provider:

  • They expect to be asked about their symptoms. Their focus is on their body.
  • They worry about the physical aspect of the examination, which they may find embarrassing

But they do not expect to be asked about their habits and behaviour. And if they are asked about personal behaviours without first receiving an explanation they may:

  • Shut down (stop talking, avoid answering etc).
  • Provide the response they believe is correct, but which is not necessarily truthful.

WHY? Adolescents do not trust that their responses will be kept confidential. And this is very important to them. Health care provides should

  • Talk to adolescents alone. Adolescents are likely to feel uncomfortable talking about their behaviour – especially those behaviours involving risk – in front of their parents.
  • Invest time – friendliness, confidentiality, patience, eye contact, be non-judgmental.
  • Answer questions fully
  • Provide information that is helpful and promotes understanding of treatments and conditions.
  • Present choices clearly.
  • Be non-judgmental, considerate and open to adolescent problems even when there is a conflict with their own beliefs and values.
  • Be empathetic and sensitive

Being treated respectfully

Health-care providers and support staff should treat all adolescent clients with equal care and respect, regardless of status

REMEMBER: Being treated with disrespect will stop adolescents from seeking help, while being treated equally will encourage them to do so.

Being treated equally

Health-care providers and support staff should administer the same level of care and consideration to all adolescents regardless of age, sex, social status, cultural background, ethnic origin, disability or any other reason. Adolescents do not like being judged on their appearance, illness, or behaviour.

REMEMBER: Being treated disrespectfully is a strong disincentive for adolescents to seek help. Being treated equally will have a positive effect on adolescents, encouraging them to attend further appointments and recommend the service to their peers.

Being provided with honest information

Information should be tailored for adolescents and contain relevant information which will provide guidance on choices available to the adolescent.


UPDATED NOV 22, 2023