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February 17, 2005

ULM's Student Health Services Moves and Expands Services and Hours

With a new look, location, hours and services, the University of Louisiana at Monroe's Student Health Services will be a big change for students who were used to visiting the old infirmary. For now, ULM's Student Health Services is located temporarily in the Nursing Building, Suite 154. The new site, which is under construction at University and LaSalle Streets, may be open by July 1st, if not sooner. Currently, the temporary location is open from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and half a day on Saturdays. The new building will keep the same hours.

In the past, ULM's infirmary staffed nurses, but they were very limited in the medications and care they could provide. At the new clinic, certified nurse practitioners who have the ability to diagnose illnesses, write prescriptions, give injections, and perform minor procedures will treat patients.

Marge Michel, Clinic Manager of Student Health Services at ULM, said the changes are already making an impact.

"Student response to our newly extended hours is positive and the students are happy about the new facility, which will be top of the line," Michel said. "We are excited to offer this type of care to the students and are proud to be the first Nurse Practitioner provider Student Health Center in Louisiana."

In addition to treating patients' acute illnesses daily, onsite lab testing and monitoring of chronic situations, such as blood pressure and diabetes will be offered at the new site.

Jan Corder, Associate Dean of the College of Health Sciences, has been dreaming of this change for years and is thrilled that it is coming to fruition. She said, "The temporary site is better than the old one, but the new site will be even better. I just felt there were more comprehensive services that could be offered to our students."

The new building will have four examination rooms, a nurse's office, a records room and a pharmacy. Most prescriptions written by the nurse practitioners can be filled at the onsite pharmacy. An X-ray room is also in the works for the future.

Bringing two student services together, the ULM counseling center will join the clinic in the new location. The center's staff provides counseling services for all enrolled ULM undergraduate, graduate, and professional students.

"There is a huge plus to offering these new services, relocating, and staffing the nurse practitioners," Michel said. "One of those is the fact that the nurse practitioners are also members of the ULM School of Nursing Faculty, and are familiar with the often sensitive issues common in the college population," Michel said.

In addition to all of the changes, the Office of Public Health is partnering with ULM to promote Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD's) awareness on campus. The two will work together to better educate the students about STD's.

How much do all of these new services cost the student? Most of the time, the student health assessment fee paid by each student at the beginning of each semester covers a visit to the Student Health Center. "Occasionally, however, additional charges incur depending on what the nurse practitioner feels is necessary to achieve wellness for each student," Michel said. She added, "The administrative staff has established fees which are far below the cost for comparable care at a physician's office, emergency room or other private health care provider. The billing staff is available to discuss additional costs and also file insurance claims for the student with most major insurance carriers."

The nurse practitioners at the clinic will have a referral network of physicians in town and availability of a collaborating physician if needed for consultation. The clinic encourages students to make appointments, but walk-ins are welcome.

A web site for ULM's Student Health Services is already in the works. In the future, features may include virtual interaction with students. For example, students will be able to e-mail health questions to ULM's mascot, "Chief Brave Spirit." These questions, without the student's name, and the answers to them will be posted to the web page. If the student desires a personal confidential answer, the e-mail will not be posted and the student will receive an answer back.

Confidentiality will also be addressed at the pharmacy. Students can fill out a piece of paper that describes what services or medications they need. The student will hand the paper to the pharmacist and the pharmacist will fill the prescription. This way, no one has to know why a student is visiting the pharmacy.

In the future, the clinic plans to host Women's Health and Men's Health Days. The nurse practitioners from the clinic will also give health talks to classes and organizations on campus, and provide health topic columns in the weekly student newspaper, The Pow Wow.

The new facility will provide convenient and quality care for ULM students and possibly expand that care. Corder explains, "In my dream, we will open the health center and get it running for students; then for students and their families; and then for faculty and staff."

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