Touching base with the campus place for students’ healthcare needs
Have you been procrastinating on your visit to a medical clinic because of your busy study schedule or other priorities? The Student Wellness Centre at the U of R recognizes the value of prioritizing health and does what it can to operate as a one-stop-shop for students to access a range of healthcare services, counseling, wellness programs, and health education resources. Are students making optimal use of this free resource at their disposal?
Nurse practitioner Erin Wellsch noted that many students are unaware of the medical clinic available on campus. She also shared insights on how the Student Wellness Centre has evolved since it opened, where it could be headed for future development, and gives a general idea of the comprehensive care provided that addresses the diverse needs of students.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
What are some of the most common health concerns that you see among university students at the clinic?
There is a lot of variety but lots of cough and flu, especially around mid-fall to winter [they] are more common, as well as kind of minor injuries and sprains especially when it’s really icy out. And then I also find lots of students coming for contraception counseling or sexually transmitted infection testing. […] Kind of what you would go to a community clinic for and see a nurse practitioner there, [that] is what we do here.
Do you primarily operate as an appointment-only service, or do you also offer walk-in appointments for students in need of immediate assistance?
Right now we prefer appointments, but we do offer same-day appointments. So, you see, if somebody walks in and needs to be seen urgently that day whether they hurt themselves or had a sprain, we would definitely see them at a set walk-in time. It just depends on the availability, but we do try our best to see urgent needs. It is also important to know that we are not an emergency room, so certain things may need to be referred out to higher-level care emergency rooms.
To date, what have been the responses of students to having an in-house wellness centre?
It’s been very positive. A lot of students do not realize that we actually have a clinic at the university on campus, so they are very happy to know that. It is sometimes very difficult to find health care services off campus because they [students] may not be familiar with Regina yet, or they are busy and they would like to have their healthcare [needs] met on campus.
How do you work with other health professionals at the university, such as counselors, to ensure that students from all backgrounds and identities receive comprehensive care?
I collaborate a lot with other professionals like the psychologist who has different expertise, and we can collaborate to provide the patients with the best care. We do operate with confidentiality. Within the student wellness centre itself, there are student mental health services and student health services. […] We have the student fill out a consent form, and then we provide collaborative care.
What I have to offer and what the psychologist has to offer are different, but the main purpose is to help out the student. We have different expertise to offer, and it’s really nice to have that on campus.
Can you describe any new or innovative health programs or services that the clinic has introduced?
In the future we are hoping to do some initiatives around contraception and STI testing, and a whole lot more to offer on a regular basis.
What advice would you give to students who are nervous or unsure about accessing healthcare services at the university, and how can you help ease the uncertainties of someone during their appointment to make them feel comfortable?
We are a very welcoming environment and we understand that [there are] a lot of students from different backgrounds and different cultures who are away from home for the first time [who] may be a bit nervous to access health care. […] We just let them know that we are welcoming and culturally sensitive.
We take the time to listen and get to know the students. […] We are here to help them the best we can and everybody is respected, just kind of how health care should be. Depending on what they are seeing me for, it’s kind of like a shared decision-making process, and with that we make an informed and shared decision. We work with the student to figure out what would be the best treatment plan for them based on their values and background.
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