Researching youth health perspective

INNOVATIVE: UTAS Rural Clinical School graduates, Dr Julian Chang, Dr Isabel Di Tommaso and Dr Jack Strugnell, participated in the study. Picture: Supplied
INNOVATIVE: UTAS Rural Clinical School graduates, Dr Julian Chang, Dr Isabel Di Tommaso and Dr Jack Strugnell, participated in the study. Picture: Supplied

Medical students at the University of Tasmania’s Rural Clinical School investigated what young people want from their general practitioners for new research. 

The study found that young Tasmanians appreciated non-judgmental GPs who listened, avoided complicated medical speak, made assurances about confidentiality and treated the teenage patients like adults.  

Respondents also wanted their doctors to ask questions about their mental wellbeing, sexual health and substance use, even if they were visiting for different reasons, as they felt awkward bringing up the topics. 

The students surveyed 155 teenagers aged between 16 and 18 from a rural Tasmanian high school.

Rural Clinical School senior lecturer and GP Dr Jane Cooper proposed the study based on her experience working in youth health.

Dr Cooper said the study showed 95 per cent of teenagers considered a GP to be their primary health care provider. 

“Young people place GPs high on their ‘go to’ list for help in addressing health problems, however their personal perceptions of general practice are not very well understood in the local GP community,” Dr Cooper said.

She said the project provided “powerful findings” to help GPs deliver youth-friendly practice. The study highlighted barriers between young people and health care, with 64 per cent of respondents “hoping the problem would go away”.

Teenagers were also deterred by difficulty making an appointment at a convenient time and feeling uncomfortable about seeing a GP.  

Almost all participants wanted reception staff to recommend youth-friendly doctors who students could visit after school hours. 

Rural Clinical School researcher Colleen Cheek said medical students worked collaboratively with organisations to build an anonymised iPad questionnaire for the participants.

The research was co-authored by five students who have all since graduated to become doctors, alongside three staff members. A sixth student, Magella Tate, who died in September 2015, was also acknowledged in the paper for her co-authoring contribution.The study was conducted between 2015-16, and the results were published nationally in the Young people have their say: What makes a youth friendly general practice paper.