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Adolescent vulnerability, sexual health, and the NP's role in health advocacy

Kuzma, Elizabeth K. DNP, FNP-BC1,a; Peters, Rosalind M. PhD, RN, FAAN2,b

Journal of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners: July 2016 - Volume 28 - Issue 7 - p 353–361
doi: 10.1002/2327-6924.12331

Purpose: To describe adolescents as a vulnerable population with unique healthcare needs, especially in relation to their sexual risk-taking behaviors; and to explicate the necessity of nurse practitioners (NPs) advocating for youth-friendly services and policies to meet adolescents' sexual and reproductive healthcare needs.

Data sources: CINAHL, Medline, PsychInfo, and PsychArticle databases were searched to identify theoretical and empirical literature regarding adolescence, vulnerability, sexual health outcomes, barriers to accessing reproductive health services, what it means to be youth friendly, and health advocacy to meet the health needs of adolescents.

Conclusions: Adolescents' health needs may not be fully met in traditional healthcare settings. Lack of access to youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health services increases adolescents' risks for poor health outcomes including sexually transmitted disease and unplanned pregnancy. Clinic, state, and national policies can create barriers for adolescents in obtaining sexual health services.

Implications for practice: NPs are philosophically and educationally prepared to be leaders in improving adolescent health outcomes. NPs can directly provide youth-friendly care as well as advocate for youth-friendly practices within their health system. In addition, NPs are well positioned to be leaders in advocating for state and national policies that improve adolescents' access to appropriate sexual and reproductive health care.

aClinical Instructor

bAssociate Professor

1School of Nursing, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan,

2College of Nursing, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan

Received: 28 May 2015; accepted: 12 October 2015


Elizabeth K. Kuzma, DNP, FNP-BC, School of Nursing, University of Michigan, 400 N. Ingalls Room 3173, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. Tel: 734-647-0149; Fax: 734-647-0351; E-mail:

© 2016 American Association of Nurse Practitioners
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