Communicating with adolescents


The Communication and Cultural Competence program is based on case studies that give examples of everyday medical practice in Canada. These modules do not focus on diagnosis and treatment. Instead, they focus on communication between health professionals and patients. Please note that the modules are not intended to show the only way to deal with a situation. Instead, they are intended to provide guidance on how to approach and reflect on these different scenarios.
  • This case is set in a community physician’s office. It illustrates some of the problems physicians may face when in solo practice in a small town. The communication issue here relates to interacting with adolescents. You will see a difference in how this physician handles himself with adults and with his young patient. One of the goals here is to explore some of the communication skills helpful in managing young patient cases.

    The two other main themes of the case are interprofessional relations, especially working in health-care teams, and written medical communication. Every practicing physician must become accustomed to the change from written charts to electronic medical records and other electronic medical communications, as this poses particular legal and organizational concerns.

    The activities in this case will help you verify your understanding of the issues at hand. You will notice that in this case there are some questions posed for which there are no answers or commentary. As in real professional life, we must reflect and find our own answers to the many questions that come up every day. To practice this, you are asked to read some literature that serves as background information to the “Reflective exercises.” And the physician in this case seeks help with his questions from several sources, including the electronic literature.

MCC role objectives


  • Accurately elicit relevant information and perspectives from patients and families, colleagues and other professionals (2.0)
  • Effectively convey oral and written information associated with a medical encounter (5.0)



  • Consult effectively with physicians and other health care professionals to provide care for individuals, communities, and populations (2.0)



  • Know, and appropriately implement, current ethical and legal aspects of the consent and capacity process (2.4)

Sentinel habits

  • Manage patients using available best practices
  • Communicate verbally and in writing in a clear and timely manner

Entrustable professional activities

  • Assess, diagnose and manage patients with acute, common and complex diseases across outpatient settings (2)
  • Recognize and implement appropriate disease-prevention and health-promotion (4)
  • Lead and work within interprofessional health-care teams (8)
  • Collaborate with patients, families and members of the interdisciplinary team (9)


Critical competencies

  • Establish and maintain proficiency in clinical knowledge, skills and attitudes appropriate to Internal Medicine (2)
  • Seek appropriate consultation from other health professionals, recognizing the limits of one’s own expertise (5)
  • Develop rapport, trust and ethical therapeutic relationships with patients and families (8)
  • Convey relevant information and explanations accurately to patients and families, colleagues and other professionals (10)
  • Develop a common understanding on issues, problems and plans with patients, families and other professionals to develop a shared plan of care (12)
  • Work with other health professionals effectively to prevent, negotiate and resolve interprofessional conflict (14)
  • Demonstrate a commitment to their patients, profession and society through ethical practice (19)


By the end of this module the participants should be able to:

  • Utilize the knowledge and skills required in communicating with adolescents
  • Understand the special ethical issues about consent and capacity in children and adolescents
  • Understand the importance of self-awareness with regard to personal and professional limitations and behaviours
  • Appreciate the skills and scope of practice of other health professionals
  • Understand the roles and function of inter-professional health care teams, including conflict resolution
  • Know how to search for community resources in managing patients
  • Manage written medical records in a professional manner, and in accordance with provincial and territorial regulations and guidelines
  • Understand the implications of the use of electronic communication and medical records

Self-assessment quiz

  1. What are the health promotion and disease prevention topics that should be discussed with every adolescent patient?
  2. What are the particular issues with regard to consent and confidentiality with children and adolescents?
  3. What are the regulations in your province or territory concerning content and maintenance of medical records?
  4. What are the communication issues in referrals and consultations?
  5. What are the communication issues in working with other health professionals or in health care teams?
  6. What are the steps that might be taken to help resolve a conflict between health professionals?


Next: Part 1