Childwise is a medical advice column for parents of children ages birth to 21.
To everyone else, they may be young adults, but to us, they are still our children.
Sending our children off to college is frightening on many levels, but one of the biggest fears may be what kind of medical care your child will find on campus.
Barbara Galderise, the recently retired Director of Student Health at Duquesne University after 33 years of service, gave us some guidelines on what to expect from student health centers at colleges and universities.
According to Galderise, at Duquesne, they provide ambulatory care services – health care provided on an out-patient basis.
“Every day is different. We see ordinary things like sprains and upper respiratory issues to things like minor lab accidents and eating disorders,” she said. While they don’t dispense medications, they can diagnose and provide prescriptions for minor illnesses and injuries.
Lest you worry that your child may have to trek to a pharmacy while running a fever, Galderise said, “A lot of pharmacies also deliver these days.”
Staffing of student health centers varies at each college – know who is on staff at your child’s school. At Duquesne, they have a physician on contract, two full-time nurse practitioners and three registered nurses to serve a campus of over 10,000. They also have a health educator and a part-time nutritionist for assisting with chronic illnesses such as diabetes.
Speaking of chronic illnesses, Galderise urges parents of children with chronic illnesses and existing health issues to contact the campus health care center and inform them of the condition and concerns.
“Don’t wait until school starts to contact us. Reach out early – we are very busy the first few days of school,” she said. Galderise said they work with parents whose children may have cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and other issues, to ensure that the child continues to receive medical care and assist with special needs and services.
Student health centers often have “regular” working hours. At Duquesne, those hours are 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Friday. The center should have emergency on-call hours and have relationships with nearby hospitals and medical centers for 24-hour-emergency care. Know what 24-hour health care providers are in the area of the college or university. What is the relationship with your child’s school?
Health education is also a common service at most colleges. Health care professionals may provide workshops, support groups and health fairs for students.
Parents should also know what mental health care services are available to students. The counseling centers are usually separate from the health care centers, although the two will work together for various health care issues where the two overlap.
“We work hand-in-hand with other offices including the Office of Special Student Services and the Counseling Center,” said Galderise.
The most important action that a parent can take is being informed – know what services are available and what may be lacking. Ask questions. They may be young adults, but they will always be our children.
Are there topics that you would like to see covered in Childwise? Please email Kathleen Ganster at firstname.lastname@example.org with suggestions.