Post Classifieds

Students head to ER

By Devon McCurdy
On February 10, 2011

Even though Norwich has its own infirmary, many students are instead heading to the hospital emergency room. Some infirmary staff are concerned that the Norwich facility is getting an undeserved bad reputation.

"We don't have a great reputation on campus, and we are here to help and provide services to the students, and we try our best to see that the students get the best care that we can provide," said registered nurse Carla Asaro.

According to infirmary staffers, some students visit the infirmary first and then head to the ER.

"We'll see a student for one thing, and they'll head immediately over to the (emergency room), where they will just treat the student," Asaro said. "Where we may not have given (the student) antibiotics, the ER will just treat them, even if it wasn't really necessary, which makes us look like we don't know what we're doing."

"The students come down here, don't agree with what we say, and then head over to the ER," said Asara

The ER, say infirmary employees, is quicker to give antibiotics, for instance.

The infirmary is formally connected to the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, and the two communicate regularly. The emergency room costs more than the infirmary, which offers free services.

"We offer a ton of services that are all free, but if you decide to go the emergency room, it's going to cost you some hard-earned money," Asaro said.

Deb O'Hara, the physician's assistant at the infirmary, said, "The emergency room has everything, but it's going to cost the students more in time and money if they decide to go there instead of coming down here."

Why do students head to the ER? Some infirmary staffers speculate that students think the infirmary employees have inadequate medical training.

"They don't see us as doctors or nurses, but rather as Norwich staff, which makes things even more difficult when trying to help someone out who's sick or hurt," Asaro said.

For example, Kara Son, a 21-year-old biochemistry senior from Bridgewater, Mass., said, "Some people say that the infirmary only gives out painkillers and that they don't know what they're doing."

To some students, the infirmary is seen as a place for general medical care, as compared to a center for specific treatment.

"They provide basic medical care, for simple issues, like coughs and colds and pink eye," said Bernadette Duffy, a 21-year-old criminal justice senior from Haworth, N.J. "They don't have the most sophisticated medical equipment for diagnosing serious issues."

According to Rob Johnson, a 23-year-old history senior from Phoenixville, Pa., "The infirmary is capable for providing care for the students' basic medical needs, like if you hurt your leg or something close to that."

Some students go to the emergency room instead of the infirmary because "everyone wants a cure right now and they want to get right back into doing the things they want to do," O'Hara said.

One problem with students who go to the hospital, said lead registered nurse Dawn Bailey, is, "We don't know what's going on with a student who went to the emergency room unless we ask."

"By going to the ER, the student isn't putting themselves at risk, but it's taking the communication lines off track, and that is not to the advantage of the student," Bailey said. "When you go to the ER, it's like skipping a step in the process, or jumping a piece of the chain of command, and you don't do that unless there's a really good reason."

According to Asaro, the infirmary staff is trying to move away from the "old-school doctor" method of treating everything, and move in the direction of preventing illness.

Increasing the level of communication the infirmary has with the students on campus is one way the infirmary can improve its reputation, according to Asaro.

"We are definitely not in the loop with communication, and it may be because we're not on campus, such as an out-of-sight, out-of-mind sort of thing," Asaro said.

According to O'Hara, the infirmary staff wants to "especially improve communication with the leaders on campus, and we want to get out there to try and find out what they expect from the infirmary."

"If the students understood more (about) the services that are available they'd be able to better make up their minds about coming down," Bailey said.

For the most part, students have found the services provided by the infirmary to be adequate and accommodating, according to Taylor.

"They have a high level of accommodation," and there are "many different options, like staying over or getting medicine," according to Taylor.

"The infirmary is clean, quiet, and a better place to be if you're trying to recover," Taylor said.

"From the times I've needed the help, they were more than capable for handling the issue," Duffy said.

According to Johnson, "they're always ready to get you the things you need to get better," and "they're very helpful, and the staff is courteous, and they've got excellent bedside manners."

"If you do have something wrong with you, they're going to figure out what it is because they are professional, trained medical care providers," Allard said.

Making sure the students realize that the infirmary and its staff are there to help is priority number one, according to Asaro.

"We want people to come down and see us, because we are friendly, and we are helpful, and we want to help the students get better," Asaro said.

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