Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Health Center appointment policy neglects emergencies



As college students and, for the most part, adults, Trinity’s student population is held responsible for their own well-being. Ferris Athletic Center is available in order to help maintain a healthy exercise regimen, multiple food options are available for a nutritious diet, and several counseling services are offered in cases of emotional, spiritual, or mental stress. Trinity College is equipping its community with fantastic facilities in order to maintain balance and health in every aspect of life. Except, of course, actual medical assistance and aid.

The Health Center, attached to Wheaton, is staffed with smiling faces, and an inviting environment that welcomes all who enter its doors. Pamphlets, posters, and displays are spread throughout the cozy waiting room, each detailing how to approach dealing with everything from depression to sexual assault. The Health Center’s page on the Trinity College website boasts an impressive list of available services, from allergy shots to confidential testing for sexually transmitted diseases, diagnosis of various health conditions to delivery of prescriptions from a nearby pharmacy. Above this extensive list, the Health Center details its policy for seeing patients: “Appointments are required, walk-ins are triaged and referred off-campus for urgent care or scheduled into the next available appointment”, and if a student needs medical care after hours, he or she may receive “telephone advice by calling Campus Safety at 860-297-2222 and asking to speak with the nurse on-call” as needed. This policy seems fairly reasonable and does not appear to leave students without medical care. That is, until a football player with a herniated disk walks into the waiting room, explains his urgent condition and is told that a nurse is not on call for two hours, so would he like to have a seat and wait? Yes. Something like this actually happened.

For those students fortunate enough to not need drastic medical care, or treatment beyond basic consultations and diagnoses, the appointment policy is nothing more than a minor inconvenience. Students at Trinity have busy schedules, so finding the right time to see a doctor about that spreading rash might be difficult. In most cases waiting a few days, or even just hours, does not actually matter.

However, those with time-sensitive and dangerous cases may suffer from this system. These ailing students get tangled in the red tape of needing a specific appointment. It can be assumed that the aforementioned football player did not anticipate herniating a disk in his back, so he did not have a scheduled appointment to be seen for this incredibly dangerous injury. There are countless other conditions, illnesses, and injuries that are similar in their emergent nature and impossibility to predict, so why is the Health Center not prepared to address these issues at all times?

Appointments should be part of the Health Center’s policy. In addition to teaching students the responsibility and importance of taking the initiative in getting medical help, it also allows the Health Center to stay on top of its various cases and services. Students who can make appointments, should. There is no denying that there is a reason this is the typical method to get healthcare. If the Health Center is going to mimic real-world policies, just as student’s ailments on campus mimic real-world problems, it should also be prepared for real-world scenarios, including emergencies. In addition to taking appointments, a nurse or physician should always be on call in case of walk-in situations such as these. Students without appointments should be free to go to the Health Center and know that they will be treated, or at least made more comfortable. Triaging is a critical part of providing health care and the Health Center’s policy details how it is used in assigning appointments. Yet, in the case of the injured football player, no one triaged him properly. If they had, he would have been sent off campus immediately, or been ushered to an exam room. Instead, he had to wait hours for someone to come in and confirm the obvious by saying, “Yes, you do need help.”

Clearly the system has been working fairly well so far, but it is fair to say that in almost any area, there is always room for improvement. In the case of the Health Center, perhaps reevaluating, revamping, and reviewing their policies would help them better serve the needs of the students. Those few times a student needs emergency care, it should always be provided without avoidable delay.

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