When students are sick, probably the last thing they feel like doing is trudging to a doctor?s office halfway across town only to wait three hours in a waiting room with sick children running around.
UCA, however, offers an alternative – Student Health Services, which is located in the basement of Bernard Hall, a convenient and affordable way for students, faculty and staff to seek medical treatment on campus free of charge or at a minimal cost.
Candace Welcher, the director of Student Health Services said, ?Our mission is to see that people are healthy enough to get their education and to have a productive life.?
?If you provide a quality service at a reasonable price in a convenient way, then you can?t fail. That?s what we try to do,? Welcher said. Each semester, full-time students pay only $16.42 in fees to the university for the services they receive from SHS. Costs are kept low by using nurse practitioners to treat illnesses and to collaborate only with a doctor when necessary. Using a nurse practitioner costs students three to four times less than using a full-time doctor.
SHS offers many free services to students including the following: Treatment of minor illnesses and injuries, treatment for chronic illnesses, simple laceration repair, TB skin tests and many immunizations. Physical examinations, women?s health services and the excision of simple lesions are provided for free with an appointment. They also provide many other services at a small fee such as pregnancy tests, first aid kits, and flu shots.
Most of the illnesses that SHS sees are upper respiratory problems. In recent years, the number of sexually transmitted diseases seen in the clinic has skyrocketed. SHS tries to provide education and supplies in a non-judgmental way according to Welcher who adds, ?We see more STDs because students know that we?re here and are coming for treatment. Also, sexual activity is much more casual than it used to be. One decision and one time can change their life forever.?
SHS has also seen a rise in the number of students coming in for treatment for depression and anxiety. They work together with the Counseling Center to provide treatment for these students. Welcher says, ?I think it has a lot to do with what has been going on in the world in the past two years. Students not only worry about money, grades and relationships, but now they also have to worry about the world and the economy.?
Since coming to UCA in 1999, Welcher has seen SHS grow exponentially. She has seen the addition of another nurse practitioner, Rob Wallace, and a part time nurse?s aid. The part-time secretary was also made full-time.
?The volume of patients we?re seeing here has increased and the number of services has exploded,? Welcher said. During 1997-1998, there were 7,933 visits over a 12-month period. In 2002-2003, there were 12,708 patients with 31, 235 services provided. In February 2004 alone, 1370 students visited SHS.
SHS is looking into getting more space on their floor next year. They also want to slightly increase the staff size as well. ?The facility is stretched to the max and so is the staff. We?ve gotten as creative as we possibly can to move people in and out of here,? Welcher said.
Future plans for expansion will be decided upon by the steering committee with heavy input from the Student Government Association. Welcher anticipates more growth of SHS and looks forward to expansion saying, ?We?ve gotten great support from Vice President of Student Services Ronnie Williams and from the SGA leaders.?