The Worth Health and Wellness Center, the only medical center on campus, is the first point of contact for students in need of medical care on campus. Its offers holistic care, with a focus on prevention and screening, and offers treatment for both acute and chronic health issues. However, Worth has limitations and is not always able to treat students on-site. Worth has recently updated its record system to be fully electronic. The new system intends to make the process of visiting the health center more sustainable as well as more efficient for students. Director of the Student Health and Wellness Service Alice Holland explained the benefits of the switch to the electronic system.
“We fully implemented an electronic health record system this semester. This is an exciting advancement since the adoption of the [electronic health record] system assists in documentation, data collection, and quality assurance. This implementation also aligns with the College’s sustainability efforts.”
The electronic health portal also gives students greater ability to get in touch with the health center and increases accessibility of student’s health records as they can reach their Student Health Portal through their mySwarthmore account.
“The Student Health Portal allows students to access their health information from their computer or mobile device. Students can view their upcoming appointments, complete forms, review their discharge plan and visit statements, and receive secure messaging regarding their care. This decreases the amount of time students spend in the waiting area completing paperwork prior to their visits,” Holland wrote in an email to The Phoenix.
The efforts of the health center reflect a larger movement by the college to be more sustainable. The changes also will give students more immediate access to their own medical information.
The Health Center itself is run in a nurse-practitioner model, meaning that nurses and nurse practitioners are the main source of care for students rather than doctors. Haverford and Bryn Mawr offer similar models in their health centers, although Bryn Mawr offers same day appointments with a physician if students need an increased level of care. Nurse practitioners have advanced degrees in addition to the Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing and are able to diagnose illnesses and write prescriptions, whereas regular nurses cannot.
“Nurse practitioners are licensed, autonomous clinicians focused on managing people’s health conditions and preventing disease. They fulfill an important role in the healthcare system by offering a holistic approach to patient care. Our nurse practitioners are family practice certified. The nurse practitioner model provides consistent coverage when the Health & Wellness Center is open. This provides increased access for our students compared to limited physician hours. Our nurse practitioners can directly consult with the physicians as needed,” Holland continued.
However, Worth is not able to respond to all situations and sometimes needs to refer students to outside care. Worth offers general care and is limited in some of its abilities.
“The most common reasons for visits include general illness, simple diagnostic screenings, and preventive care. Advanced testing and treatment such as x-rays, sutures, IV fluids, and care requiring a specialist are referred to local resources,” Holland explained.
Most interactions with Worth do not end require immediate care from an additional off-site provider, but some situations test the center’s limits. Daniel Wallick ’20 encountered such a situation at the beginning of this semester.
“They were very supportive even when they did not have all the necessary resources and did everything they could. They organized [sending me to an offsite location for treatment] very well.”
Wallick also expressed his opinion on the new electronic system, saying that he did not like checking in for his walk-in appointment on the computer. He preferred to explain his symptoms to a person as opposed to detailing them on a computer. Upon entering the health center, students are instructed to use a computer located past the receptionist’s window to sign in to appointments.
“I found it harder to explain why I’m there writing it on the computer than explaining it to a person,” he said.
Not all students are as content with their visits to Worth as Wallick was. Abigail Goodman, ’20 was misdiagnosed at Worth and ended up going to the hospital near her home in Maryland. Goodman has had strep throat in the past, and went to Worth with symptoms of strep. However, Worth diagnosed her with another illness, and she soon got sicker.
“I have a history of strep and know how it feels, and even when a test comes back negative, it’s usually wrong if a culture is done after. Worth did not do a culture. They […] did a rapid test, and told me I probably had a virus.”
Goodman eventually was admitted to the hospital.
“My fever got so high that night I had to be hospitalized and get a shot of penicillin because, due to the inflammation in my tonsils, I could not drink or swallow. After I got antibiotics and finished them, I contracted strep again, so I went to Worth again, and they misdiagnosed it as an abscess. I went to an ENT who prescribed more antibiotics and a steroid. […] I have a history of strep, and [Worth] didn’t take that into account,” Goodman explained.
The electronic system, which includes secure messaging with the health center, has the potential to increase students’ communication with Worth about their health. Additionally, knowing the parameters of the care the health center is able to provide beforehand may help students self-advocate for the care that they feel they need.