The Teen Brain as a Work in Progress: Implications for Pediatric Nurses

Judith W. Herrman


Pediatr Nurs. 2005;31(2):144-148. 

In This Article

The Teen Brain and the Pediatric Nurse

You are beginning your shift of work as a pediatric nurse on an adolescent medical unit. You notice you have been assigned to care for Caitlin... again. Caitlin is a 14-year-old girl with Type 1 diabetes mellitus. This is her fourth admission in the last year... the picture is always the same. Caitlin gets busy with school and activities... forgets to take her insulin... forgets to check her blood sugar... forgets to check her urine for ketones... forgets to drink lots of water... and proceeds to be admitted to the hospital in DKA. You sigh as you enter Caitlin's room. As you stand by her bedside, you ask "Caitlin, what were you thinking?" With wisdom far beyond her years or recent behavior, Caitlin replies, "That's the problem...I wasn't thinking!"

The scenario above, adapted from a similar story by Steinberg (2002), highlights what parents, nurses, and others puzzle over when working with teens... is teen thinking different from that of adults? Do teens think about the same things as adults? How do these similarities and differences account for teen behaviors, attitudes, and health risks? Recent research has brought questions such as these and more to the attention of the public and to those who work with adolescents. This article will synthesize some of the research about the teen brain and discuss the nursing implications of these conclusions.


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