Health Services and Health Care Providers
What are student health services?
The student health services (sometimes called the student health center, or clinic) at your college is probably the first place you should go when you have health care needs. The amount of care you can get at your student health center depends on the college that you attend. At many colleges, you can get medical care, medications, STI and pregnancy testing, advice, information, and/or counseling. There are usually medical, nursing, health education staff, and counselors available. All of these professionals are familiar with the issues that college students often face, such as stress, chronic health conditions, learning disabilities, nutrition issues or eating disorders, relationship problems, sexual health issues, alcohol or drug problems, or sports injuries. At most student health centers, you can also get a gynecologic exam. The staff will work with you to keep you healthy and respond to your questions and concerns. If you need medical care that cannot be provided to you at your student health center, ask the staff where you can go.
When should I go to the student health center?
You should call or visit the health center if you:
- Have any medical or mental health issue that you are concerned about
- Have a high fever (101 degrees farenheit or higher) - take your temperature before you call, because they probably ask what your temperature is
- Have pain when you pee
- Have pain in your stomach or lower abdomen
- Have chest pain, trouble breathing, or a cough that won't go away
- Have symptoms that make you concerned or that last for more than a week, such as vomiting or diarrhea
- Need birth control or a test for a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- Think you might be pregnant
- Think you may have a sprain or a broken bone
- Have an emergency such as a lab spill
- Are assaulted
- Are sad, depressed, anxious, or unable to sleep
How can I get seen at the health center at my college?
You can either call or go online to see when the center is open and to find out whether you need an appointment in advance or if you can just walk-in when you need to. If you do make an appointment, make sure you schedule it so that you have enough time to get there before or after class without rushing. Also make sure you have enough time afterwards in case the visit runs longer than you expected.
Should I prepare for my appointment?
Yes. Think of any questions or concerns that you may have had beforehand, and write them down. If you are taking any medications, you might just want to put them in a bag and bring them with you to your appointment, because you will likely be asked if you take any medication(s) on a regular basis, and what dose you take. Also, bring a list of any other health care providers that you are currently seeing, including your primary care provider(s) and/or specialists (providers that specialize in one area of medicine, such as an allergist). Also, if you have ongoing problems, such as chronic headaches, keep track of your symptoms and how often you are taking pain medicine. (Bring this with you to your appointment).
Other tips on how to prepare for your appointment:
- Arrive early so you give yourself time to settle down, collect your thoughts, and fill out any forms.
- You may want to ask a friend or significant other to come with you to make the visit less stressful, or to help you ask questions.
Things to remember while you're at your appointment:
- Ask questions and voice your concerns. Don't leave before your provider answers all of your questions and talks to you about any concerns that you may have.
- If you don't understand something your provider says, ask him/her to say it again more clearly. Your provider should be patient and should be willing to explain things to you.
What do I do if student health services can't provide me with the services that I need?
The staff at your student health center will know the names and contact information of physicians, specialists, gynecologists, and mental health clinicians in the community in case you need additional care not provided at the center. You can always ask them to help you find someone qualified to take care of your specific problem. Make sure to check your insurance. If it's a problem that can wait, some insurance companies only cover visits to health care providers within your hometown network.
What if I have an emergency?
Find out the name(s) and location(s) of the closed emergency room or urgent care center and how to get there before you need it! If you do have a problem or injury that needs attention right away, go straight to your student health center if it's open. If it's is not open, go to the closest hospital emergency room. The campus police at your college should be able to take you if you have no way to get there, or you're unable to drive. If the problem is very serious and you shouldn't waste any time, call 911 for an ambulance to come and get you.
Should I continue to see my primary care provider (PCP) once I start college?
You should continue to go to your primary care provider (PCP) or nurse practitioner (NP) for your health care when you are at home or if you live nearby. If you are away at college, you will likely go the student health center for any illnesses. If for some reason your college doesn't have student health services, an administrator at your school should be able to give you a list of health services/resources in the surrounding area. You can always call your PCP if you have any questions. Some students make medical appointments to see their PCP when they come home during breaks. However, if you have a chronic medical condition such as asthma, IBS, endometriosis, etc. and attend school far away from your medical specialist(s), talk to your specialist about needing a referral to a local specialist who can manage your condition while you're at college. Check to see if your health insurance covers health care provider visits out of network or in another state.
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