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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Health services adjusts to life after Winton

By Matt Day

The class of 2012 will be the first in more than 50 years that will not have its on-campus health care needs met at Winton Health Services. The Winton building’s former location is buried under the rising Institute for Global Citizenship building and health services has moved across campus to the Leonard Center.Associate Dean for Student Services Denise Ward said the change has been a positive one. Winton was constructed in the 1950s and was forced to close at points last year due to burst water pipes.

“The opportunity to move to the Leonard Center was something that we jumped at,” Ward said.

Renamed the Macalester Health and Wellness Center, the center offers new services and will expand its medical staff, but some lingering student concerns have followed health services to its new building.

“I would recommend that people not go there for delicate procedures,” Maggie Jacoby ’11 said. Jacoby made an appointment this fall for a minor recurring issue that she said was made worse by treatment from health services’ medical staff. “They’re nice, but they took on too much responsibility. I would have been happy to be referred somewhere else.”

Ward said such negative experiences are rare among students who seek advice and treatment from the center.

“The negative tends to be exaggerated,” she said. “That’s human nature. Word of mouth is usu†ally a negative phenomenon.

“The vast majority of students have positive experiences. We survey students who come in for appointments every year, and well over 90 percent said they had good care.”

Ward said that health services has the difficult task of both treating and referring students who come in seeking treatment. While most health care providers specifically concentrate on one type of treatment or care, health services is charged with finding resources for any ailment felt by Macalester students.

“We should be seen as the primary resource for students on campus,” Ward said. “We educate students on how to access and use the health care community in the area.” Health services frequently refers students to a variety of health care providers in St Paul.

Staff Limitations

Macalester, like most liberal arts colleges, does not employ a full time physician.

“For this size of school, we’re probably staffed a little more than average,” Ward said.

Some students still have concerns about the number of medical and counseling staff.

“The main problem I see is that they are understaffed,” Becca Holohan ’10 said. “There are long waitlists for counseling services and it can be hard to get an appointment if you’re sick or need to see a specific kind of doctor.”

The health services medical staff is composed of a registered nurse who also has reception and office duties, and a nurse practitioner. A second nurse practitioner is scheduled to come on staff in January.

“We’ll be able to ramp up the kind of services we offer through the medical portion,” Ward said of the new hire.

The biggest crunch in staff availability comes in counseling, Ward said. Increased demand this year has led to waitlists.

“More students are coming to Mac with a history of having counselors or taking medication,” Ward said. “Our challenge is to help support students and this growing demand.”

Health services employs three full time and two part time counseling staff.

“Staffing in the health arena is a pretty expensive operation,” Ward said. “At this point it becomes a budgetary concern.”

Many other colleges either charge an annual health services fee or have students pay for individual visits to health services, a practice Ward said Macalester has avoided. Health services’ funding comes entirely from the college’s operating budget.

A Changing Role

The Health and Wellness Center occupies more than 4,500 square feet in the Leonard Center, larger than its Winton’s footprint.

Designed to serve as an infirmary, Winton did not meet the demands of modern health care. The new space in the Leonard Center includes a second exam room, massage, space for counseling and psychiatry services, a conference room, and a wellness lab.

Ward said she was excited by the opportunities offered by the Wellness Lab. The lab, staffed after regular health services hours by students most evenings, offers self-care information, safer sex kits, and healthy food items like fruit and tea.

The lab and an increase in health-related programming are the centerpieces of an effort by health services to integrate better into the campus community, Ward said. She said she hoped the new location would help to integrate health services better into campus life.

“Hopefully it will shift some perceptions about our isolation.”

Students have been receptive to the new programming, Ward said.

“What they do well is the diversity of programming they offer,” Holohan said. “From Wellness Wednesdays to massages to kickboxing classes.”

Ward said that she is working to continue increasing the visibility of health services on campus.

“Its an ongoing challenge,” she said. “One quarter of our population is new every year.

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