What to expect in the adult healthcare system

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Teen girls standing in a row

At some point, you will leave paediatric care (health care for children and teens) and start going to a team that specializes in caring for adults with organ transplants.

If you have been going to a children’s hospital, you will go to a different place. If you have been in the children’s section of a general hospital, you might stay in the same building but have a different team of health care providers.

The move to adult care happens at different ages in different places, but it usually happens between age 16 and 21 (age 18 in most of Canada).

Differences between child and adult health care systems

In some ways, the adult system is not very different – you will still get your blood taken, need to wait for appointments and see doctors, nurses and a dietitian. However, you will find that care in an adult hospital or adult section feels different, maybe in ways you cannot really define. The main difference is that you will need to be responsible for yourself in different ways.

  • Your new health care team will assume that you are responsible for your care and for understanding your transplant. They will still talk to your parents about your care if you want them to, but, in general, their attitude is that this is about you, not your parents. They will expect you to understand how to look after yourself and when you should contact the hospital.
  • You will need to entertain yourself while in hospital: there are no child life specialists or reading rooms and maybe limited computer access to keep you occupied while you are waiting before or after tests or during treatments.
  • You will need to make your own appointments. This can seem scary at first, so it can be a good idea to start doing this on your own while you are still in the children’s hospital. Starting to practise some of these skills as a teen on your own – instead of relying on a parent – helps you get comfortable with scheduling and is one less thing to learn to do in the adult system.

Making your own appointments

There are many options for keeping track of your appointments. You might use your phone, a calendar app, a notebook or a healthcare journal. You can choose whatever method you like, but it must be easy for you to use and keep up to date.


Spend a few minutes writing down a plan to schedule your appointments. Use this checklist to make sure you have everything with you before you attend your appointment.

Useful sources of information

Although the adult healthcare system is different in lots of ways from the paediatric system, it works well and provides excellent care to adults with transplants. There are many more ideas about how you can do well in the adult system in the booklet Getting Ready for Adult Care.

Last updated: November 30th 2017