TTU Wellness Center Needs A Check-Up

Student Health Services provides comprehensive, cost effective, and compassionate medical care to students. This includes health education to promote healthy behaviors and avoidance of preventable disease.

A number of Tech students have a problem with this visionary statement by the Texas Tech Student Wellness Center.

According to Texas Tech’s Associate General Counsel, the number of patients coming into the wellness center has decreased in the past two years. In 2010, 32,210 patients were counted, in 2011 the number dropped to 29,657, and so far this year the wellness center has seen 26,390 patients. With these rates decreasing, Tech students are going else where to get their care.

Tech student Sarah Davis said she was so fed up with being turned away from the wellness center that she decided to visit another clinic.

“They’ve actually told me to come back another day,” Davis said. “I had to go find another doctor around Lubbock, but that was just one time. The other visits I’ve had, I only had to wait a couple of hours. It’s not exactly a speedy process.”

Most Tech Students complained about having to wait for long periods of time  for an appointment.

Tech student Courtney Slavin said she went to the center on a Tuesday without an appointment and could not get in until Friday when there was room. She said she felt like she had been put on the back burner as a Tech student.

Luckily, she said, she wasn’t extremely sick and could manage to wait to be seen. Slavin said her roommate was not as fortunate. She said her roommate had to wait a long period of time before she could get antibiotics, and actually ended up going to Covenant instead of the wellness center because she did not want to wait.

Dr. Kelly Bennett, medical director of Texas Tech University Student Health Services, admitted that the center has been understaffed for the past year, which may be a reason why waiting to get an appointment can take a while.

Davis said knowing that the wellness center has been understaffed is discomforting. She said it is upsetting because students pay for the center and its amenities in tuition. According to Tech’s Student Health Services website, students pay $20 per clinical visit, and may have to pay additional fees depending on what services are needed.

“They are a service provided by the campus which everyone pays for, and I think your wellness should be a number one priority from Tech,” said Davis.

Tech student Lauren Mannio said she has never visited Tech’s wellness center solely because of the negative experiences her friends have had.

“It takes forever to get an appointment, and once you get an appointment and see somebody, all they do is give you Advil and send you on your way,” she said. “They don’t really help you.”

Walk-in patients typically must wait and see triage nurses first.

“If you look at what triage means it judges the level of acuity if you need to be seen by a doctor now, tomorrow, not at all, or do you need to haul over to the ER? So our triage nurse does all four of those,” said Bennett.

The only catch is, according to Bennett, the triage nurse cannot finalize a diagnosis or prescribe a student medicine.

“You know, if we’re low on providers and people are sick or if they’re aren’t any appointment times and they come in to triage, eventually it gets to the point of ‘Okay, I don’t want to wait three hours,’ ” said Bennett. “That is the student’s prerogative and we’re lucky enough to live where there are alternatives for people to go to.”

Bennett said they just hired another nurse who has already started work this month, and they are looking to hire another provider this summer.

When asked if the wellness center had ever considered having a doctor on hold for walk-in patients to help with the waiting issue, Dr. Bennett chuckled. She said the center has actually tried this tactic before. She said the center typically sees 12 to 13 students per half day and when one takes that into account, that’s 26 visits.

“Students like things when they want them and how they want them,” she said. “They would pretty much like for us to have 20 providers all between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Nobody wants to come in early, and nobody wants to come in late. But, that’s not how the world runs. You can’t get 40 hours of work out of those hours.”

According to Bennett, it’s a money issue. She said schools are cutting back on their hours for this reason. When asked how much money was being lost she shook her head. Dr. Bennett said as much as thousands to tens of thousands are being lost. It’s not just an issue at Tech; the University of Texas at Austin is losing money as well, she said.

When asked where she thought Tech ranked, Bennett said it’s hard to compare Tech’s wellness center to other schools. She said she would like to say Tech is the most outstanding in the Big 12. To put it into perspective with everyone else, she said Tech offers more services through our wellness center than Texas Christian University or Baylor. Bennett went on to say Tech offers less than Nebraska. She said sometimes certain schools have to do more things or have longer hours because those schools’ wellness centers are the only medical service in town. She said Tech is fortunate enough to be surrounded by a medical community.

Regardless of what students may think of Tech’s Student Wellness Center or whether they decide to not visit it at all, Bennett said their main objective is getting students in the best condition possible.

“Our main job is to get you better and back in class,” she said.

About Lauren Estlinbaum

Entertainment Director    —    Journalism major, Class of 2014
Lauren Estlinbaum grew up in Pearland, Texas, south of Houston (go Texans). She is a journalism major with a minor in apparel design. Lauren would like to work for either a fashion or lifestyle publication post-graduation. As she likes to say, she considers fashion magazines survival guides.

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