A sick person sits in a chair in the waiting room of a doctor’s office. Her name is called. What does she expect the doctor to say? She trusts the doctor to come to them for advice about their health. Is the doctor going to be right? Or will the doctor send her away?
Vanessa Brooks, a junior at Keene State College, has not had very many pleasant experiences at the Center for Health and Wellness.
“I had a sore throat for a long time and I finally decided to go to the health center and they said that I had mono[nucleosis] and asked if they could give me a mono test,” Brooks said. According to Brooks, she told the nurse taking care of her taking the mono test was fine, but the nurse did not explain that there was a cost for the test and that it would be added onto her bill.
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“It came out negative and because I had swollen glands they [the health center] were pretty sure I had mono to the point where they [the health center] gave me another mono test,” Brooks continued. The nurse taking care of her once again did not tell her about the cost and the second test was also negative.
Brooks said, “The other few times I have gone I haven’t received the care I wanted.”
According to the Mayo Clinic website, mononucleosis is carried through saliva. Some symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, swollen lymph nodes, and a sore throat, according to the Mayo Clinic website.
There have been a few accounts on whether or not the Center of Health and Wellness at KSC is accurate and has the right credentials to treat the students. According to Christine Burke, director of the Center for Health and Wellness, they are staffed with two nurse practitioners, two registered nurses, and one medical assistant. There are credentials and rules that the Center for Health and Wellness needs to follow.
According to Burke, nurse practitioners are required to have a bachelor of science in nursing and a master’s in nursing. The nurse practitioners also have to maintain their license as a nurse practitioner and maintain their license to prescribe medication, Burke said. She continued to say that a nurse practitioner acts as a doctor in New Hampshire. The registered nurses need to maintain their license as a RN in New Hampshire, according to Burke, and the medical assistants need to be certified to provide support to a nurse practitioner. A registered nurse’s function is to be the first line of assessment, according to Burke. Burke said that all staff members of the health center need to maintain their cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certification.
“We operate very much like your primary care practitioner. What’s different is we are not a billing facility,” Burke said.
There are steps to find out what is ailing a student in their care.“They are trained to do a step-by-step assessment on a student. They ask a lot of questions, gather a bunch of data,” Burke said.
Another KSC student, junior Paul Van Zanten, received poor treatment from the Center for Health and Wellness. Van Zanten said that he went to the health center because of a very bad sinus infection. He gets them all the time, according to Van Zanten, and he knows what he needs.
“It took me going three days in a row for them to finally listen to me and give me anything helpful, more than just Ibuprofen and generic sudafed and ramen,” Van Zanten said. He continued, “I expected to be able to meet with someone that can prescribe me something the first time I went there.”
“Medical assistants cannot administer medicine,” Burke said, “A registered nurse can and a nurse practitioner can. We don’t tend to so much administer medication here as prescribe medicine here.” Among the medicines the health center are able to administer are nebulizers and flu shots, which a medical assistant can give the recipient.
A third student has had a poor experience as well with the Center for Health and Wellness. Senior Tabitha Aubee said she went to the health center this year with swollen glands and looked for help.
“I went to the health center because my glands were really swollen and in a lot of pain and usually, in my life experience that means I’m really sick and just need something to get my glands down [from the swelling],” Aubee said. According to Aubee, there were two nurses who looked at her and both said that she had mono.
Aubee said she was given two streptococcal [strep] tests and both came back negative, and the nurses insisted that she had mono and told her to come back to the health center if her sore throat persisted.
“Nobody in my family has mono, and I’ve never had mono. I’ve never been near somebody who has mono, but she insisted that everybody on campus has mono,” Aubee said.“Instead of coming back to her I went to the emergency room the next day and I asked if I even looked like I had mono.” Aubee said that the doctor did not believe she had mono and prescribed her pain medication to bring down the swelling of her lymph nodes.
Both Van Zanten and Aubee, feel that the care packages are not the best around.
“A tea bag, ramen, cough drops, and then Advil, and sudafed in a little bag doesn’t fix everything,” Van Zanten said.
Aubee agreed when she said, “Ramen in a bag is not going to help.”
But according to Burke, the care packages do exactly what they are meant to do. One of the purposes for the care packages, “is to educate students about self care,” Burke said, “It’s that teaching them when they need medical care, how to take care of themselves and the cold packs help us do that.”
Both Van Zanten and Aubee agreed that the nurses should listen more.
“I think if they took the time and looked up a student’s health records before they went and talked to them, it would help out a lot,” Van Zanten said.
Aubee agreed, “Listen to the kids when they tell you about their family history.”
According to Burke, the nurses and medical assistants look at the health records that are available to them. Based on what students say their symptoms are “she would open up your history to see what was documented from when, she would look at the physical exam,” Burke said.
“The only reason I would go back to them is because [KSC] doesn’t have a walk-in clinic and I don’t want to pay emergency room charges,” Aubee said.
Van Zanten had the same idea. “I think they’re just really cautious with diagnosing things. I think they all have the right credentials and plenty of experience and they know what they’re doing but I think they are doing it differently than they should,” Van Zanten said.
Though some students have not had the care they intended to receive, other students have good experiences.
“I’d say its set up nicely, easily accessible. From my experience they’re helpful,” junior Bryce Carlson said.
“One of our major goals or objectives is to help students to become their own self advocate,” Burke said. The health center is there to assist students in their medical needs.
“I want them to feel like they’ve been heard, I want them to feel like they’ve been assessed adequately, and I want them to feel that if they don’t feel that way that they feel empowered enough to be able to come back,” Burke said.
Rebecca Marsh can be contacted at