May is National Adolescent Health Month, a great time to remember that visiting a clinic for youth friendly services is an important way to take care of your health. It doesn’t matter what age you are, you have a right to high-quality sexual and reproductive health care. But how do you take this important step of owning your own health?
If you have a parent, family member or other trusted adult in your life who can help, that’s great! Talk to them about making an appointment. But you can own your own health, too. It is not required to bring a trusted adult with you.
Here’s some pro tips for making your visit successful.
1. Make a Plan
- Did you know you have the right to take time off from school for confidential health care appointments without a parent’s permission? Talk with your school counselor or office person ahead of time to learn how to leave campus on your own.
- Find a clnic near you on the TeenSource Clinic Finder.
- Decide if you will visit a clinic in person or via telehealth, sometimes called virtual care or remote car. Visit the clinic website or call to find out your options.
- Figure out how you will get to the clinic. Will you walk, call a Lyft or Uber, take a bus, drive, or have someone you trust give you a ride? Keep transportation in mind when you’re making your appointment. If you are choosing telehealth, think about where you will be during your appointment. You want to plan to be in a quiet, private space if possible.
- Check to see if a clinic in your area has a teen drop-in time! Teen drop-in clinics can be a great opportunity to get services without having to make an appointment. You can find out on the clinic’s website or by calling to ask about drop-in hours.
- When you call the clinic to make an appointment, let them know if you are a new patient, if you are. Be open and honest with the person on the phone about why you need an appointment. It’s their job to help you make the right type of appointment.
- Some clinics will even let you schedule appointments online! Check if their website has this option.
2. Be Prepared
- Do research on your health concerns beforehand so you can ask informed questions. TeenSource.org is a great place to start.
- When you make your appointment, make sure to write down the date and time. Put the information somewhere to help you remember -- like in a planner or your phone’s calendar. If you need to keep your appointment private, you can put it down as something like “meet with this friend,” or “go to the gym,” as long as you remember what it really means.
- Show up early for your first appointment so you have time to do paperwork and get your questions answered.
- Bring a photo ID (such as a license, California ID, or even school ID), your social security number, and any insurance information if you have them. If you don’t have any of these, don’t worry! You still have a right to health care, no matter what.
3. Be Proactive
- Check in at the front desk when you get to the clinic. If you’re concerned about how much things will cost or if your visit will be private, ask the office person about a confidential health care program you can use. Sometimes teens are worried that if they use their family health insurance, someone in the family will find out that they are on birth control or results of an STD test. Don’t worry. There are programs in California that will help you avoid this! Ask about using Family PACT for affordable and CONFIDENTIAL health care.
- If you don’t want to use your address to receive mail, you can give the office staff the address of someone you trust. If you are worried about the clinic calling your phone, ask the office staff to use a code name when they contact you instead of saying that the clinic is calling. If you are using someone else’s phone number or address, make sure you let the person taking your information know that you are using a friend’s contact information and about any special privacy concerns you have.
- Be respectful to staff and know that they should always be respectful to you. Clinic staff should ask about and respect your pronouns, gender identity, and chosen name. Health care staff should never put you down, judge you, or force you to do anything that you do not want to do. If any of these things happen to you, you can make a report by speaking with the clinic manager and/or go to another clinic.
- Be honest with your health care provider, and ask questions about anything you don’t understand. You get to be the boss of your own health!
- While you are at the clinic, be sure to pick up free condoms, lube, and emergency contraceptive before you need them. If they are not available in the waiting room, you can ask for them during your visit.
Visiting a clinic or health center may seem scary your first time but remember, you have a right to own your health! Making a plan and being prepared will help make the experience easier. And remember, you can always ask questions! If you don’t want to visit a clinic just yet, that’s ok. You can always get free condoms without visiting a clinic and if you are just looking for an STI test, you might be able to order one to your house!