Peter Edgar, Abby McHenry, and Erin Daugherty
In an effort to provide better health services to students, the Student Health Center (SHC) is modifying its hours and partnering with Lakeland Regional Health Systems (LRH) beginning March 18.
“We will have an APRN and a medical assistant on duty during these hours and all students will be seen on a walk-in basis,” Associate Vice President of Student Development Dr. Susan Freeman said in a statement. “We know this arrangement will provide enhancements to the health services available for our students and a direct connection to other LRH resources.”
The announcement about the SHC hours change was sent in an email to the FSC community on Feb. 11. Operational hours have been shortened from almost the entire week to just business hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays).
“We looked at the data from weekend usage and it was extremely low, most weekends only a few students visited all weekend, and decided this change would better suit student needs,” Dean of Student Development Mike Crawford said.
Students in need of medical assistance during hours when the SHC is closed may stop by or call the FSC Safety Office or call Safe Ride, which will provide transportation to a clinic or the Lakeland Regional Emergency Department.
With the new partnership, LRH will provide two full-time staff members: a advanced practice registered nurse and a medical assistant who will be there “day in and day out,” Dr. Kyle Fedler, Provost at FSC, said. FSC did not want the providers to be on rotation, in an effort that students would be able to have a familiar face when they walk in to the SHC. The woman taking over has worked with other institutions: she served with Florida Polytechnic University as a medical provider through LRH there.
Fedler expressed how in the middle of last semester the college “heard a few concerns about the level of care” that the SHC was providing students.
“We weren’t pleased,” Fedler said.
Fedler described how the SHC hadn’t been keeping track of student immunizations as well as they should, and that they discovered some students hadn’t even gotten all of the immunizations they were supposed to in order to be at the college.
When the Southern reached out online for student input in regard to the SHC, it received a number of negative responses, but also hopes about changes that could be made.
“In regards to the health center, I have ONLY had negative experiences,” junior Bethany Blevins said in a message. “They won’t write prescriptions for a lot of things or refill pre-existing medications.”
Fedler believes that the changes will provide an avenue for medicine to be available on campus. He expressed hope and interest in being able to provide more STI and HIV testing, as well as blood testing. One specific step towards this is that because LRH is taking over, they will be able to bill students for medications, whereas the SHC previously was unable to do so.
Fedler said that when LRH officially moves in and takes over, they will be able to see and make requests about what the SHC needs to provide adequate health care to students. The college is already planning on updating cabinetry and furniture; Fedler mentioned exam tables, potentially, as well.
“Our decision was based first & foremost on providing the level of health care needed in this important area,” Vice President of Finance for FSC Terry Dennis said.
The change comes after weeks of uncertainty regarding the staffing at the health center. Sara Ellis, Program Coordinator of Student Development, worked at the front desk in the SHC for several weeks.
“I’ve been working here since about the beginning of February,” Ellis said. “It’s new and it’s interesting… At first it was challenging. Now I’m coming back [to Student Development in the Rogers Building] on Monday.”
The changes to the SHC aroused mixed feelings among students. Many refuse to visit the SHC because they find going to a clinic to be more effective and reliable in treatment. However, students who are insured through the college expressed concern about their coverage at off-campus locations.
“They should stay open for students that don’t have many other options,” sophomore Catie Moat said.
Fedler said that the college wanted to make the best use of student tuition. When, consistently, only one or two students came in on the weekends, the college deemed it appropriate to shorten the hours.
Still, some students believe that keeping the SHC open on weekends regardless of the usage or popularity is important.
“I’m feeling a bit nervous towards this change in hours because I feel like our health staff should be available to the students more times of the day than just business hours, but I believe the school is doing the best they can to provide care to us,” freshman Anna Bevington said.
Bevington’s worries align with the kind of reputation that the SHC had before the changes were announced.
Freshman Soren Sinelli knew she was sick when she entered the health center last semester.
“I was coughing really bad to the point where my lungs had shooting pains in them,” Sinelli said. “They were like ‘oh you’re fine you don’t need to see the nurse here’s some cough drops just take ibuprofen’.”
Sinelli went to a doctor later that day and found out she had bronchitis, which eventually developed into pneumonia. Sophomore Mckayla Petrie had a similar experience to Sinelli. Petrie was not referred anywhere else and was told it was just “allergies” when she actually had tonsilitis.
“I feel as if they feel like they’re doing a very good job at listening to your symptoms,” Petrie said. “They really don’t diagnose you with anything.”
Fedler said that if data and usage statistics were to improve regarding the health center, the college may consider re-opening the SHC over the weekends, though it depends on whether FSC perceived that the facility really would be used frequently enough to outweigh the cost of maintaining it.
“We entered this partnership in order to be able to increase the services being offered to our students (for instance, much easier ability to access advanced care at LRH when needed),” Dennis said in an email.