Health Care Transition for Teens & Young Adults

This post is the last in a series dedicated to Health Care Transition. You can review the first post for definitions and background and posts specific to parents & caregivers and medical providers.

For a printable version of this information, please click here.


What is Health Care Transition and Why Does it Matter?

Health care transition is the process of graduating from your child (pediatric) medical providers to adult medical providers. In other words, transition is a time to practice some adulting.

The ultimate goal of health care transition is for the patient to be able to manage their health. Maybe you will need support from trusted adults, maybe you will need a health advocate, or maybe you will be totally independent in taking care of your health needs. Whatever your comfort and ability levels in terms of healthcare might be, transition is the perfect time and space to practice and build up your confidence in healthcare adulting.

Check out this short video from Got Transition to learn more:

I’m Still a Kid, Why Can’t My Parents Manage My Health Care?

Wouldn’t it be awesome to have our parents do the adulting for us until we wanted the responsibility? Maybe at first, but you will eventually need the knowledge and skills to manage your health and navigate the giant, crazy healthcare system.

Once a person turns 18 years old in the United States, they are legally an adult. That means parents no longer have the legal authority to manage their health needs. Parents can no longer request medical records, accompany you to appointments, or talk to your doctor – unless you give written permission.

So why not take some time in your teen years, while you still have support, to practice healthcare adulting? You can learn, make mistakes, and conquer new skills without the pressure of the adult world just yet.

How and When Does Health Care Transition Start? Who Does What?

Do you remember having a doctor or nurse kit as a young kid? Or playing hospital with your siblings? Surprise – those are great first stage activities of health care transition!

Lots of things can be considered part of transition, as long as you are being empowered as the expert in your own body. Once you are old enough to understand your medical condition in everyday language, you can start taking on more responsibility for your health. For some individuals this might be around 10 years old, while for others it could be 14 years old.

Hopefully, your pediatric doctor will initiate discussions about transition as you become a tween/teen. But if not, you can! Your parents will also play a big role during this time because, until now, they have solely managed your health. It will take a little practice to find the right balance of who does what, but it will be worth it!

I’m Already an Adult, Is It Too Late for Health Care Transition?

It is never too late! While you may skip some steps, the end goal is the same – gain the knowledge and confidence you need to manage your health.

A great tool to see where you are in the process is the Transition Readiness Assessment from Got Transition.

Do You Have Any Resources to Help Me Get Started?

Got Transition is the national resource center on health care transition and is a program of The National Alliance to Advance Adolescent Health. They provide many resources for teens and young adults. Some of our favorites are:

Young Invincibles is a national organization taking on issues in healthcare, higher education, and economic security on behalf of young adults. Their #healthyadulting program has several great resources, including the How Does My Health Insurance Work toolkit.

Resources curated by health advocates are also available on our website’s Resources tab.


For a printable version of this information, please click here.

This post is the last in a series dedicated to Health Care Transition. You can review the first post forĀ definitions and background and posts specific to parents & caregivers and medical providers.