Cold and flu season is fast approaching, and the stress of the semester is steadily growing. With so many students living in such close quarters, the risk of illness and mental stress continually multiplies. Olivet’s Counseling and Health Services offers many free and minimal cost services for short term care of students needs, both mentally and physically.
“We see anything in a range of eating disorders to lice from poison ivy to toenail infections. It’s a whole gamete, but most of what we see being spread is respiratory and stomach illnesses,” Olivet’s Nurse Practitioner Mary Schweigert said. She sees anywhere from 10 to 20 students per day depending on the season.
“I’m a nurse practitioner so I can order lab work, I can prescribe medications so they don’t have to go somewhere else first,” Schweigert said. There is also a second nurse present in the office one to two days of the week for allergy clinics.
Olivet also offers free counseling sessions for students struggling with mental illnesses, unhealthy relationships, and stress. “We do not allow students to work in the office because we are a combined counseling and health service,” Schweigert said. “The trend in secondary education is to combine those two to give students the most privacy we can. We do not allow other students to work in our area.”
The counseling center has two psychologists, four licensed clinical counselors and six doctoral students working on their doctorates in psychology. According to the Counseling and Health Services yearly report, the average wait time for students to be scheduled for an appointment with a counselor is about four days.
For students seeking a different option from one-on-one counseling, there are also several counseling groups that help with larger areas of struggle. Groups start the week of Oct. 19 and offer help with support, coping, and building healthy relationships.
“We typically run four to six groups a semester and anywhere from three to 11 students attend any given group,” said Dr. Lisa Vander Veer, the Director of Wellness and Career Services. “Groups are extremely well received and are often an ideal form of treatment for many issues college students face. The most difficult part of groups is getting students to attend, but once they do the response is nearly always positive.”
Appointments with Health Services revolve around similar types of illnesses, but Schweigert said they have a wide range of reasons why students might find themselves in their offices.
Senior Elisa Caballero has been sick several times over the course of the semester, but only went to Health Services the first time she caught a respiratory illness. “I was worried by the time I got an appointment the second time I would be feeling better again because it was more flu like symptoms, and I assumed it would be a shorter illness,” Caballero said. “I go to family if I can and I take advantage of having doctors in the area.”
The sooner you make an appointment with the health center for flu-like symptoms, the faster you can get help.
Influenza is a viral illness, but there is a viral medication specific to the flu that when given within the first
72 hours helps limits your symptoms and disease progression, Schweigert said. If you wait, the recommendation is to go without the medication because it should already be resolving itself. Schweigert said that during flu season, students should be sure to seek an appointment within the first three days of illness.
Strep throat is similar to the flu because it’s a bacterial infection and it needs an antibiotic to help your body fight it. It can lead to other problems if you don’t get it treated. If you get on an antibiotic within the first 48 hours you’re going to feel a lot better than if you come in later, Schweigert said, although there isn’t a lot they can do within the first 12 hours. “We really almost need to see more of a progression of the illness in order to make a better diagnosis,” she said.
For chronic illness or pain Schweigert recommends that students consult primary care physicians for issues concerning their long term care, but Health Services is willing to help with short-term solutions. Most students can help their own health
by remaining aware of the options, recommends Schweigert.
“I would say a lot of students don’t know about or don’t have access to simple over the counter medications and taking their temperature and they don’t know what to do about a respiratory illness or a gastrointestinal illness,” Schweigert said. Remaining aware of general student health issues and options for treatment is one of the first steps to avoiding illness while at college.