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Staying true to its mission: SHS supporting students by providing telehealth

photo of Student Services Building

Student Services Building.

Student Health Services (SHS) has long prided itself on its mission to put Illinois State students first. That mindset rings true now more than ever as the health care industry faces an unprecedented uphill climb to combat the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

ISU’s SHS office has committed itself to making sure Redbirds are getting the proper care away from campus. Staff members have been busy providing telehealth by following up with home pharmacies and providers while ensuring proper customer service steps are firmly in place.

“Our main role is to make sure that students get taken care of, even if they are remote,” said SHS Director Dr. Christina Nulty.

As the pace around the country turned frantic in dealing with the dramatic spike of new cases in mid-March, SHS continued to serve students who needed to be seen for illness visits while also screening for travel and exposure history. SHS then converted to appointment phone calls to students who did not need a physical exam to take care of their needs.

The team transitioned as many employees as possible to a remote setup, Nulty said. They began using Zoom and other forms of telehealth to communicate with student patients while keeping a skeleton crew at the office. Students with acute illnesses are now initially treated over the phone.

Nulty advises students still on campus or living in off-campus housing to call a health provider first if they are experiencing symptoms or discomfort. “It is so important to not just walk into an emergency room,” she said.

One of the biggest points of emphasis has been making sure students seeking other forms of treatment, including those with mental health concerns, are still receiving proper attention and care.

“If you are on a chronic medication, you still need that, antidepressant or not,” Nulty said. “We don’t want students running out of those medications and going through withdrawal symptoms. We don’t want any students left behind.”

Another point of concern is, of course, ensuring the safety of students and staff by limiting exposure risk as much as possible. Staff required to be in on site—a pharmacist, medical records person, and provider among them—are asked to monitor their temperature twice a day and report a fever equal to or greater than 100 degrees.

ISU’s pharmacy has remained available during the entire time, with staff keeping busy transitioning students’ prescriptions to their home pharmacies. When it’s all said and done, there will be a transition process back to the ISU pharmacy.

Transitioning to telehealth outreach has required a collaborative effort from all different types of units to set up the proper technologies. Student health has remained the top priority through all of this, with Nulty saying it’s been “amazing” to see the Illinois State community come together to honor that commitment. Beyond providing care, the University has continued to administer the Student Insurance Plan so that students have financial assistance to cover their medical needs.

“I think that people’s inner strengths really come out in times of pressure, and they can do more than they ever dreamed possible. And I think we have seen that throughout campus in every single division,” Nulty said, including within the Student Health Services’ team.