Messages to future doctors and nurses

The young people we interviewed were asked whether they had any advice to give doctors and nurses, based on their experiences. The biggest issue was about doctors and nurses being able to communicate well. Health professionals are not always brilliant at explaining things in the most suitable language. So that young people can understand and do not feel that they are being patronised. Nurses were seen as being much better than doctors in this respect. It may be that they have more time and the young people get to know them better; it may be that they are closer in age to the young people themselves, and as a result of this it may be because they use more everyday language. Other specific bits of advice you had included; 

  • Talk to us, not just to our parents.
  • Cancer doctors need to understand the effect that their attitude has - we pay as much attention to your manner and attitude as to what you are actually saying.
  • Use ordinary everyday language- not 'doctor speak’.
  • Establish a good rapport so we feel able to ask questions.
  • Be more relaxed and less self-consciously 'professional’ and 'formal’.

Doctors were appreciated, when they had a positive attitude and provided information that was specifically relevant to the situation, rather than providing a large number of statistics. For instance one young woman suggested that instead of saying 'Your cancer might come back’ a doctor could say, 'It might not come back, so go and enjoy life’. 

  • Not everyone wants the same type of information - some want to know everything without the 'sugar coating’ while others prefer to hear what’s happening in stages.
  •  A very formal doctor might be fine when you’re feeling well but when you’re really ill and scared you need someone who is both sympathetic and approachable.
  • Don’t rely on the young person to always ask for information - offer it.
  • Please keep checking up on us when we’re in hospital - it can be hard to ask for help if you’re very poorly or shy.
  • Sensitivity and respect are very important - we may not want to be examined by a whole group of medical students who are the same age as we are, but we may find it very hard to say 'no’.
  • Fertility issues are really, really important to us - we need to discuss them no matter how young we are.
  • The personal touch is really important - you want to feel that your doctors and nurses care about you as a person as well as dealing with the physical side of your illness.
  • We need contact with other young people who have been through the same things and understand what it's like - you can help arrange this.
  • Recognise that our parents and brothers and sisters have an important role in supporting us and that they sometimes need help too.

Last reviewed December 2017.

Last updated November 2014.


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