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Youth Champions: looking out for our youngest clients

Wednesday, August 12, 2020


Rose Stewart, National Nurse Advisor

By Rose Stewart, National Nurse Advisor

Helping people with sexual and reproductive health issues is all in a day’s work for our nurses. That said, some appointments can be more challenging than others. This is particularly true when it comes to our youngest clients; not because they are difficult to deal with, but because their appointments require care and sensitivity to ensure they are being dealt with appropriately.

Not often, but from time to time, appointments are made at Family Planning by a young person under 14 years of age. By law a child under 14 is entitled to independently access contraception and abortion. Most often they come with a support person, but sometimes they come alone. For children under 14 adult support is very important. Our appointments are confidential, and young clients often have questions they feel more comfortable talking to a nurse about than having what they fear might be an embarrassing conversation with whānau or peers.

Sometimes, issues come to light at these appointments that are more serious and require robust processes to ensure they are handled correctly. Domestic violence, sexual abuse and early engagement in sexual activity are issues that raise red flags with Family Planning nurses, and it is critical they are equipped to handle these cases and follow proper procedures to ensure the young client’s issues are dealt with appropriately.

For these reasons Family Planning has four special Youth Champions among our nursing staff. These are nurses who undergo regular professional development in dealing with youth, making them youth experts within the organisation. These Youth Champions audit every single appointment with an under 14-year-old at Family Planning and provide advice and guidance to other colleagues when needed to manage youth consultations with any under 18-year-old who uses our services.

There are important considerations to make when managing appointments with young clients, particularly if they have come to the appointment on their own.

Acknowledging the importance of family and whānau and encouraging them to speak to a trusted adult in their life about their issues can help ensure they recognise the value of confiding in someone they trust, no matter how embarrassing they feel the issue is. While the nurse will reiterate that the appointment is confidential, having support and guidance from home can make a big difference in how the young client feels and copes with their concerns.

It is also important the nurse is able to recognise when the young client is in a situation that requires other professionals to get involved, for example if the young client confides that they have been sexually abused, that there is domestic violence at home or that they are engaging in unsafe sexual practices. In these situations, the nurse will often talk to the young client about why they recommend involving additional services to help them out of the dangerous situation.

Often young people in these situations will have sought help because they know they are not in a good situation and they will understand why others need to get involved. By having dedicated Youth Champions in the organisation, Family Planning takes its responsibility for being the first point of contact for many of these young people on these issues very seriously and is committed to ensuring we do what we can to see the best possible outcomes for the young client.  

Family Planning has clinics located throughout New Zealand. Use the clinic finder to find your nearest clinic.

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