Health Center personnel seek to connect with students

by Rebekah Bresee

Director of health services Kristiana Holmes has been working to expand the services of the Health Center and provide students with opportunities to take control of their own health.

One of the steps Holmes has taken to accomplish this goal is collaborating with Off-Campus Programs and Service Learning to create a travel clinic for prospective study abroad students.

“We recognized a need for helping to connect with students who have health needs and providing them with health plans for travel,” Holmes said.

Travel clinics began last fall in preparation for Jan Term 2013 programs. At a clinical visit, a student meets with a nurse to go over any medical concerns, address country specifics and discuss travel preparation.

“Some students who have never traveled before have not thought of basics such as immunizations they may need,” Holmes said.

Through the travel clinics, nurses receive information about the student, which then allows them to make a personal health plan for travel.

“I want students to see that health readiness is an integral part of studying abroad,” said Charles Tappa, associate director of Off-Campus Programs. “We want students to get the most out of their study abroad experience and health readiness is essential to achieving that.”

Tappa said changes in activity level, diet and environment associated with travel can quickly tire the body, making it more vulnerable to illness. The goal of the travel clinic is alert students to these changes so that they can prepare themselves for their study abroad program.

“I don’t want to send someone on a trip and then have to bring them home early for a health-related condition,” Tappa said.

The Health Center was at the last two Study Abroad Fairs so that students will associate health readiness with travel from the moment they first start considering their study abroad options.

Holmes is beginning to connect the travel clinic with the Costa Rica program as well. Presently, the Health Center provides services to prepare a student to travel to Costa Rica, but they hope to provide more long-term medical services in the future.

The Health Center staff saw increased success in the flu campaign and clinics this year.

“This was the first year in probably six years that we dispensed all the flu vaccine,” registered nurse Leann Dettmann said.

A record 300 flu vaccines were given on campus this year. Both Dettmann and Holmes said there were only a few cases of flu seen at the health center this year.

“Hopefully we are helping students stay in class, stay up on their academics and not get ill,” Holmes said.

The advertising put together by junior Hillary Millard contributed to the success of flu clinics, Dettmann said. Communicating information better to students is something the staff of the Health Center is attempting to improve.

“We don’t always do a good job of letting students know what resources are available,” Holmes said.

The Wellness Fair is one method the staff of the Health Center uses to reach out to students.

The latest Wellness Fair, Tuesday, April 8, allowed students to connect with resources provided on campus such as the Fitness Center, health advocates and Sodexo.

“The health advocates we have on campus work through the department and did the majority of the work for the fair,” Holmes said.

The Health Center staff continues to look for ways to expand the Wellness Fair in addition to other methods of reaching students.

“Sometimes I consider us to be a best kept secret,” nurse practitioner Linda Torretta said. “The students just need to know we’re here.”

Holmes said she wants to establish a “health promotions area” where students can get meaningful and timely information.

She also said she hopes to collaborate with counseling and set up more support groups.

“We need to do more to support students in a variety of ways,” Holmes said.

Part of the issue of getting information out to students is that the Health Center is currently understaffed.

Torretta is the only nurse practitioner on staff. The Health Center is accustomed to operating with a half-time nurse practitioner as well.

“It has been a challenge to meet the needs of the students when we are not fully staffed,” Dettmann said.

Torretta said finding a part-time nurse practitioner has been difficult due to a shortage of experienced nurse practitioners in the area.

Being the only nurse practitioner, Torretta is the only staff member who sees to all the patients and can examine, diagnose and treat them.

“Anything that can be taken care of in a regular doctor’s office can be taken care of here,” Torretta said.

The staff of the Health Center is held to confidentiality under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. They can not disclose any information without written permission from the student.

Both Dettmann and Torretta said the Health Center is a safe place.

“When we talk about what goals and objectives we want to achieve as a department, we constantly talk about the students,” Holmes said. “We want to accommodate the students.”

Contact Rebekah Bresee at rbresee16@my.whitworth.edu

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