Aida Zabidi
Talking to teenagers about medical problems is a whole different piece of cake.

Especially when it comes to personal questions.

Enter the HEADDS screen, where a medical professional asks about drugs, sex and rock and roll. Well, that’s the general gist of things anyway.

We ask the grown-ups, and I suppose teenagers are just grown-ups in training, although I have to admit feeling a bit disconcerted firing all these personal questions to them, because I seem to connect more to them as being people closer to my age than the normal patients we talk to, and it does seem slightly intrusive. Then again, when I think about it, it’s almost a ten year gap between me and the high school students I was talking to.

Bloody hell, I’m getting old.

I suppose it’s all very much well and needed. In the role play, one of the medical students, who was wearing a headscarf, got a little bit flustered entering the sexual history of one of the teenage boys. That was absolutely fair, as our culture isn’t really one which openly discusses sex, and to go along the line of questioning of “Do you like girls or boys?/How often do you have sex?” and if the patient was homosexual, asking “Do you take it up the ass?” – Well, a much more refined version anyway, forgive my crudeness – is probably the type of questioning that throws you out of your comfort zone anyway.

However, when she said she felt it was unnecessary to take that sort of history from our patients, I very strongly disagreed with her on that point.

Whichever culture we end up practicing in, sexual health is something that will always remain important – adolescents experiment, and in a culture where sex isn’t discussed, a lot of individuals remain at risk of sexually transmitted infections and the like, and I believe health professionals have a role in ensuring the safety of our patients.

Information is so crucial, yet it’s staggering about the number of misconceptions people can hold about their habits, and their safety.

It’s important to educate, and I believe our role is one where we need to listen with an open mind; to not imprint our personal beliefs on sexuality towards our patients. Sometimes, you may only get one chance, and in that one meeting, it is important to screen for the potential risks.
Advice doesn’t equate to approval, but neutrality is important.

Even here, sometimes adolescents shy at asking questions which are absolutely crucial, doubts about accidental pregnancies, about possible infections, this in a country where sexuality is quite openly discussed – what more in our homeland, where the subject is only spoken about in whispers?

I think it was an important that she brought up her discomfort, and as I said before, it was absolutely fair – but I personally feel that in our field we will be forced to see and do a lot of things that take us outside of comfort zone, but that doesn’t mean the things we need to do are any less essential.
9 Responses
  1. Ah, sex and sexuality. It's surprising how ignorant even young adults are about it, nevermind teenagers.

  2. Such a valid and crucial point there. Aren't doctors supposed to be objective? Not there to judge, but to heal.

  3. hm hmm Says:

    that fine line between learning and a curios mind - as it can be too easy to experience - is to exercise a crucial balance too easily to weaken. then, too tired to choose where to fall but to fall.

    huh.. and not to reason. same old, same old.

    :) eheh. look here where it can be scary. hi.hi.

  4. alyaa Says:

    Well said, Aida. Work is work, after all. And these things that we are embarrassed to talk about are usually, the most important.

  5. Hi Aida! Was blog surfing and found a blog that might interest you. It's written by a Malaysian doctor, and quite interesting ;)

  6. i'm sinking, sinking, sinking....

  7. The fact that we're exposed to all these information, how intercourse are carried, the risks, the procedures, the precautions and whatnot, then we won't have to deal with irresponsible acts of of foolishness that translate into STDs, Abortions, Babies by the garbage bins and so forth. And being open to discussing it helps one understand everything even better, and can make a wise decisions or rational one, at least.

    Good topic Aida. As always.

  8. When I went for my medical check-up, although I wear a hijjab and was assumed the virgin daughter of some penghulu kampong :p the nurses/docs do ask these questions and I answer them with ease (and sometimes with toilet humour, because that's just me in crazy medical situations).I understand the importance of the question, regardless of race, sexual orientation, religion and culture.Time has changed, and these questions are crucial.

    And I doubt all penghulu kampong daughters are virgins :p...people from Virgin Islands are not virgins :p

    ...see, toilet humour.Sigh.

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