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Challenges for Teens in the Hospital

Sometimes teens and young adults who are in the hospital feel….

Lonely

girl laying in a hospital bed surrounded by darkness with a light around her faceMost teens who spend a lot of time in the hospital and away from school find that their friends call or write for a while, but that their lives just go in different directions. They feel lonely because they don’t have a chance to spend time with people their own age. 

The Streetlight Team Members (college students ages 18 – 25) offer daily companionship and a whole new group of friends.

Like they are losing their identity

They can forget who they were and what they did before they got sick and instead feel like the cancer kid, or the CF-er! 

Streetlight members work with each young person to develop a collage – which is an artistic expression of how the teen/young adult sees him or herself. We call this collage a ShandsSpace. A ShandsSpace hangs on the hospital door of  each of the young people served by the Streetlight Program as a reminder to the doctors, nurses and other hospital staff that these patients are much more than their diagnosis.

Like life is moving in reverse

Being a teen is about spending more time with friends, being more responsible and independent, and having your own space. Because they are sick and in the hospital, they are naturally more dependent on their parents, less in control, have no privacy, and can feel uncomfortable speaking directly to doctors and other professionals.

The Streetlight team is trained to listen. While the team member can serve as an advocate for the patient, we also try to empower the teen to find their own voice, ask questions and request privacy as needed.

Bored

Having mom as your only company and watching TV all day gets old real fast.

The Streetlight team brings the street into the hospital through pop culture diversions like movies, video games and magazines. Four nights a week, Streetlight hosts the Teen Lounge (no adults) for playing RockBand, Guitar Hero, Wii and pool, beading necklaces and hanging out. And if you are stuck in your room we can bring you a laptop, PS2, PS3 or XBox 360 and some really good competition from a Streetlight team member!

Like they are missing out

image of a patient in a wheelchair and a volunteer sitting next to them, hands and feet onlyThey may miss some of the milestones of high school life while hospitalized and may need to invent some of their own in the hospital.

The Streetlight team loves a party! We celebrate birthdays, dances, and other missed events due to hospitalization. We also host End of Chemo Parties and other health care milestones.

Like they are the only one going through this

They can lose their sense of place and belonging. And they can ask “why me?”

Streetlight can help connect teens and young adults with others their own age who are hospitalized through interaction in the Teen Lounge. Knowing you are not alone can make a big difference.

Like this is as bad as being “in prison”

Sometimes patients can’t leave their rooms and some pediatric rooms are really designed for toddlers and preschoolers.

Streetlight decorated six patient rooms on unit 45 with the teenager in mind. These rooms have themed quotes and photography.

Scared of the next step

Next steps include an end of chemotherapy and a move back home to school and friends; a transfer to adult health care providers and the adult section of the hospital; or a relapse and a new round of treatments and hospital stays.

Streetlight relationships formed over time with patients can help with next steps, whatever they may be.

In a spiritual crisis

These young adults may not know what they believe any more. Sometimes they lose faith, or sometimes they feel like God has let them down, or there is no God.

We believe young people find their own personal spiritual life line, whatever that may be – through music, religion, nature or art. And the team is always there to listen.