Health center delays make you sicker

For the summer Tech cuts staff to services like the dining halls and the health center. This generally makes sense. After all, with so few students, a lot less staff is needed. However, there is a point at which this becomes ridiculous. This is felt the worst in the health center.

Earlier this summer, I was unfortunate enough to become really sick. Nothing too serious, but I had a very high fever and felt miserable for days. Naturally, this meant a trip to the health center.

With a fever of 102, a cross-campus trek is not the most pleasant or easy of tasks alone, so my friend Taylor drove me over to the health center with the promise of returning to pick me up when I was done. Little did he know that the whole process would take about three and a half hours.

I walk into the mostly empty health center and fill out the required walk-in forms and go to sit by the triage room to wait my turn.

As there was only one person in front of me who was already with the triage nurse, I figured that at most I would have to about 15 minutes. I put my phone in my pocket and drifted to sleep.

When the nurse shook me awake, I glanced at the clock and realized that I had been asleep for over half an hour.

Still groggy, I walked into the triage to have my pulse and temperature and other medical things taken. The nurse was very sympathetic and did the whole process quickly and recorded the results onto a paper towel.

Even in my feverish stupor, I found that odd. I suppose that my face must have conveyed my confusion, because she explained that my charts hadn’t been brought back yet, so she could not release me to the doctor until she had recorded the necessary information into them.

After waiting for what seemed like a lifetime, the nurse decided to just go look for my charts herself. The nurse finally returned with the appropriate charts, filled them out and started to lead me into a real room.

On the way, we were stopped by a slightly frantic receptionist who insisted that the nurse leave me so that she could go give allergy shots to the three students waiting their turn.

Upon the nurse’s response that another nurse could do it, since she was at triage, the receptionist informed us that there was no other nurse on duty for the rest of the day. (By the way, it is now a little before 1 p.m.)

The nurse looked dumbfounded, but simply told her to take me into a room and give me an apple juice and Tylenol. They then agreed that while the nurse would do shots, the receptionist would take care of triage and the other two receptionists up front would take care of charts.

As I lay on the examining table and drank my juice, it struck me as absurd that only one registered nurse should be on duty at a time. I still felt miserable though, and almost immediately after finishing my juice, I fell asleep for the second time.

When the doctor came in about another forty-five minutes later, he did a basic exam and sent me to the lab to get a blood test. I was supposed to go with a nurse, but since he couldn’t find one, the doctor walked me over to the lab himself.

Luckily, at the lab, there were two people, so the test was administered immediately and then I was allowed to lie down to await the results.

The results were returned in less than fifteen minutes. It would seem that the only wait that had reason to take a long time was actually the shortest. I was given the results and told to take them to the nurses’ station. The station was of course empty, so I just slumped against the desk and wished for my bed.

Eventually the original doctor walked by and took pity on me. Apparently I looked so pathetic leaning there that the doctor glanced at the lab results and prescribed me some antibiotics on the spot. I was finally released on the condition that I would come back again at the end of the week.

The antibiotics eventually cured whatever vile disease I had, but in the meantime I had to return to the health center for three more long and inefficient visits. On one occasion all I had to do was get a test done that in any other place would have taken less than half an hour to be in and out and on my way. At the health center, it took over an hour of my time. Most of that time was spent waiting to get it looked at by a doctor who wasn’t even in the office that day.

The staff was always friendly and apologetic about the wait, but there were just not enough people around to effectively deal with all the patients in a timely manner. Regardless of how nicely the nurses may inform my poor sick body that there will be another overly long wait, the news is still devastating, a fact that the health center seems blissfully unaware of.

Now as a person who gets sick on a pretty regular basis, I understand that there will be a wait that seems to take forever in any medical center, but the waits in the health center are beyond the waits I have experienced anywhere else.

I do not necessarily believe that the long waits were the fault of anyone that I met for not doing their assigned tasks but rather the fact that no one seemed to know what their assigned tasks were.

On each of the times I visited the health center, there was never a huge influx of patients but there was also very little staff to deal with the students who were there, which makes visits to the health center so frustrating for most students.It seems to me that the limited staff for the summer is somewhat overdone. I understand that fiscally it makes sense to have less people on shift at a time during the summer, but it is important to balance the cuts with a consideration to the actual needs of running the health center.

After all, the worst time to have to sit and wait is when you don’t feel well. There needs to be a better balance of people around to make sure student needs are taken car of.

Perhaps the health center should weigh the benefits of a reduced staff against the cost to the students of having to spend even more time sick. It would be a shame if a student who was actually dangerously sick came by to get treated and no one could help them in time, just because they were waiting forever to even see a triage nurse.