As a student living away from home, dealing with health issues can be overwhelmingly unsettling and frustrating. However, resources such as California Lutheran University’s Health Services helps ease this tension.
According to Cal Lutheran’s website, the office offers a wide range of services from examinations to counseling and health education for students considered full-time. These services are available to students both by walk-in and appointment.
Currently, Health Services struggles with a staffing shortage after physician assistant Brandy Fall left in December, said Cal Lutheran Health Services Director Kerri Lauchner, who has filled this position for 12 years. As a result, Health Services has two remaining physical assistants, two nurses and a supervising physician.
Although one less physician assistant might not seem like it makes a difference, with Cal Lutheran’s recent student enrollment increase, less staff limits the services provided to students in need.
Lauchner discussed her role, saying she “does everything” from caring for patients to representing Health Services to departments of the university as well as to Ventura County Public Health. In addition to her duties, she is performing Fall’s tasks as the search for a replacement continues.
Lauchner explained that one physician assistant tends to patient care four days a week, while she does three days in the office and two days tending to administrative tasks. Likewise, the two nurses work from three to four days a week. The supervising physician comes twice a week, reviewing charts and seeing the patients that were referred to him.
I have felt the impact of Health Services’ staffing shortage after not being seen because of a lack of available physicians or appointments.
Lauchner said that with the current staff size, Health Services “has decreased the number of appointments available” and is unable to “open to our normal extended hours on Tuesdays.”
In comparison, with her full staff working, Lauchner said that Health Services can see most patients “either same day or next.”
Lauchner said that most of Health Services’ budget comes from the university’s student tuitions, and a small percent is from “our low fees we charge for our services.”
Cal Lutheran needs to ensure critical resources such as Health Services continue to provide care for students.
Students like myself, who do not have transportation easily available or time during the week to wait for hours to be seen by outside clinics like Los Robles Medical Center, rely on Health Services for medical treatment.
Cal Lutheran junior Claudia Pasillas Delgad said that she had a good experience at Health Services, especially as she fought strep throat and a 102 degree fever.
“I know some people might not be able to reach an outside doctor at a specific time so it is quicker to be on campus,” Delgad said.
Additionally, Health Services provides quality care to students in need. In a patient satisfaction survey administered in spring of 2017 by American College Health Association, about 95 percent of students were overall satisfied with their visit. Similarly, about 96 percent of students were likely to recommend Health Services to another student.
Cal Lutheran should prioritize finding a replacement physician assistant in order to give students more opportunities to be seen. This would allow Health Services to bring back extended hours on Tuesdays from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., as well as accept more appointments and walk-ins.
Cal Lutheran should re-evaluate the way Health Services is being budgeted to ensure costs for health visits remain affordable for students.