I recently had an interesting chat with a young man who had just spent a week in hospital. He’s nearly 18 and was admitted to an adult medical ward. It was both a challenging and at points frightening experience for him.
He was in a four-bedded bay with three other patients, one of whom was at times, especially at night, confused and agitated. He felt lonely at night and not sure how to deal with the distress of the man opposite. During the day it was easier but some staff dealt with the issue of his age better than others.
The only people who were near his age were the student nurses, and he found his exchanges with them really helpful. The nursing staff seemed to appreciate that he would find his situation difficult and were supportive, but sometimes the doctors treated him like an adult and expected him to be able to make decisions about his care. He felt awkward having to say that he would like to consult his parents.
I asked him if he would have preferred to be on a children’s ward. After some thought he said that, if I had asked him that question before he was admitted, he would have said no. However after his experiences, he said, actually of the two choices, he would now opt for the children/adolescent ward.
The problem is, as my question revealed, that neither setting is appropriate and nor can any hard and fast rules to be set. Some young adults are very mature whereas others are still teenagers. But it sounds like the nurses got it right – appreciating the difficulties of offering transitional care and being supportive to help the patient experience.