Shown here is Ilene Corina, President Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy and Dr. Edward C. Thomas, Principal Uniondale High School.

Shown here is Ilene Corina, President Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy and Dr. Edward C. Thomas, Principal Uniondale High School.

Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy Visits Uniondale High School
October 2018 

In October, 2018, Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy visited with seven of the high school health classes at Uniondale High School on Long Island, New York. It is the only high school in the town of Uniondale. Uniondale has a population of 31,755. 55% speak English and 31% speak Spanish. The total high school enrollment is 2,258. The student body makeup is 51% male and 49% female, and the total minority enrollment is 99 percent. The health classes are a mix of ninth through twelfth graders.

Since 2006 Pulse Center for Patient Safety Education & Advocacy has visited middle schools and high schools to talk to teens about preparing to see a doctor and taking part in their own medical care. Understanding how to be an advocate for their family members, often when family members have limited English proficiency, can be a life saving skill.  

Students were told what an advocate is and does, and many said that they advocated for their parents or grandparents who may not speak English.  They seemed eager to learn what more they can do to help as well as how they can become more prepared to see their own healthcare provider.

Students learned about preparing to see their doctor and what they should / could expect                                                    during this visit.  This program is meant to be fun and interactive and encourage                                                                    participation using their own experiences as well as

information already available to the public not being used regularly especially with young people.

They are taught that medications may cause symptoms, to understand the side effects

or possible reaction such as addiction or dependency that can come from medications

they are prescribed, and that they should be asking the doctor what sort of side effects

can they expect.  

They learned about communication for the best chance of a correct diagnosis using tools                                        developed  by Pulse CPSEA.   A chance to make up an illness is helpful and can be fun.  Many students                                  have had surgery such as broken bones or may have medical conditions that cause them to see a                                          healthcare professional regularly and some who may be from homes without support, can use this opportunity to learn about starting a relationship with their doctor.   The idea of leaving a trusted pediatrician to see a clinician for adults was a topic addressed.

Students were given a questionnaire at the end of the 40-minute session.

Of the 133 students seen in the two days: 

  • 119 reported knowing that the list they should bring to the doctor would consist                                                                    of their symptoms, medications, questions, and any other doctors they have consulted.
  • 99 understood following the program that an advocate can help a family member                                                                by asking questions and writing down information.
  • 100 said that the program was the right length of time; five said it was too short.
  • Split almost in half, 62 of the students felt they were partners in their medical care and 67 did not.
  • 88 responded that they understand their medications and 121 responded that in future they would make sure they understood their medications.
  • 119 responded that this program would help them be more involved in their medical care.

Pulse CPSEA hopes to be able to continue this program throughout Long Island and New York State as we prepare students to be involved in their own care for the best possible outcomes — both high school students who will soon be leaving home, and younger students as well. 

We strongly suggest that this sort of education, which would include one or two classes a year for students to receive patient training, should receive support.

Although many were repeated, these are some of the students’ replies when asked “What is something new I learned?”

  • Be more specific when describing my symptoms
  • Do not exaggerate symptoms to the doctor

  • People mistake medications
  • That there are such things as patient advocates. I never knew they were a thing
  • Advocates can be very helpful.  Always explain your symptoms in a proper way
  • I learned to be more focused and prepared for doctor appointments
  • I should be more involved in my doctor's appointment
  • Inhalers have different types
  • Different medications look the same
  • I should ask my doctor three questions, what the problem is, what should I do, why should I do it?
  • Not to exaggerate when explaining something
  • Be prepared for your doctor appointment by asking questions, or write a list of medications you receive
  • “Prepare for the doctor” is key
  • I learned to take a note pad with me
  • Miscommunication can lead to wrong diagnosis that's why its important to provide a good description to the doctor
  • I learned that you need to make sure you understand everything that your doctor said
  • I learned that you can have an advocate to help at the doctor’s. I also learned the importance of creating a list before your appointment.
  • I learned that there are people who could help me talk to my doctor
  • I learned to always have prepared questions before going to doctors
  • I learned that I should avoid using certain exaggerated words so that the doctor can better understand me and what’s happening in order to diagnose me more accurately
  • How to differentiate between medications if you are color blind

To learn more contact Ilene Corina, Patient Safety Advocate & Consultant at 516-579-4711 or e-mail