Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2001

Health center plans nursing triage to treat patients over the phon

August 11, 2001


Over the next nine months, there's a good chance you'll get sick.

Last year, 72 percent of the student population spent some time at Watkins Memorial Health Center, the building a few steps south and east of Robinson Center gym.

"We log about 75,000 patient visits a year," said Carol Seager, director of Student Health Services at Kansas University.

Most visits involve colds, flu bugs, ankle sprains or eating something that was uh past its digestible prime.

And then there are the more serious concerns: depression, mononucleosis, substance abuse, the consequences of unsafe sex.

The health center's staff includes nine doctors and four nurse practitioners all of them full-time.

"We're open seven days a week and into the evenings," said Dr. Myra Strother, the health center's chief of staff.

Besides the customary doctor's visits, the center operates a pharmacy and specialty clinics that emphasize sports medicine, physical therapy, allergies, immunizations for traveling abroad, gynecology and men's health needs.

It also has an emergency room that's ready to handle all but the most dire of emergencies.

"We probably refer 2 percent of our emergency room cases to Lawrence Memorial (Hospital)," Strother said.

Later this fall, the health center will start a "nursing triage system" that Strother hopes will reduce wait times.

"Basically, students will be encouraged to call ahead and talk to a nurse, who'll tell them whether to come in," she said.

"That way, if there's a bug going around and the caller has all the symptoms, the nurse can tell them what to do like what over-the-counter medicines to get and save them a trip in."

The health center's mission goes beyond just helping sick students get well. It's also there to educate.

"We do a lot to educate students on high-risk behavior and to encourage them to make good choices," Strother said.

Most of the time, she said, that involves steering students toward better food, less drinking and no smoking.

"In this environment, we feel like we have some real teachable moments," Strother said.

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