Queens College, a public institution serving over 15,000 students, currently only has one nurse on staff located on the third floor of Virginia Frese Hall.
In a October 17th article for The Knight News, Terri Calhoun, Queens College’s only registered nurse at the Health Services Center, stated that in the past two years there has been a dwindling number of students who seem to be aware that Health Services exists at QC, or even the services they provide.
“I am deeply committed to my role caring for the campus community, carrying it out with the utmost respect for clients and to the best of my professional ability — and I love my job,” Calhoun said.
But Calhoun, who has been a registered nurse for 35 years, 14 of which she has spent leading the Health Services Center at Queens College, where she provides medical care on a free, walk-in basis to students, faculty, and staff, is not only the head of the operation, she is the operation.
At least, in a technical sense anyway, as she works closely with her team of full-time Office Assistant Kalua Bolden, and newly hired part-time College Assistant Catherine Luna, both of whom handle day-to-day administrative operations. However, Calhoun is the only one certified to administer treatment, being the only registered nurse on staff.
While Calhoun’s administrative team can do smaller tasks such as distribute bandages, they cannot perform certain services that only Calhoun can such as first-aid treatment, checking client temperature, administering vaccines, and dispensing pain relievers. There is no one else able to provide these services in her absence — in other words, Fridays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays after 5:00 PM.
An example of this happened last week in the Student Union when a individual had a medical emergency in the basement. Police officers scrambled around the building trying to find this student for over eight minutes, eyewitnesses say. They were taken away in an ambulance.
It is obviously not fair to expect Calhoun to be in the office at all times, but neither is it fair to expect students or faculty to go without proper assistance when they need it. While not a doctor, Calhoun could easily suggest outside medical assistance when necessary, and handle things herself when not.
While Calhoun is not present, her administrative team may be depending upon the time. And while they cannot take temperatures or make assessments, they can suggest calling Public Safety. Public Safety is the first to respond when anyone is injured on campus and can call an ambulance, like seen last week in the Student Union. The least ideal option is walking it off, going home, or seeking care at the nearest CityMD for nonurgent cases.
None of these options are completely perfect. Leaving to look for care elsewhere, forcing yourself to tough it out, or having to call an ambulance when not totally necessary, can be subjectively unfair to students who pay to attend classes, often juggling responsibilities such as jobs, family commitments, and so on that would have their most ideal option be to visit a nurse free of charge on campus.
“Additional staff would enable us to increase the number of health-related informational events that we present throughout the year,” says Calhoun. While there has been recently hired help for the office, the newly hired help does not consist of a nurse, so students and faculty can go untreated if Calhoun is not available in the office. Room 310 of Frese Hall stays manned by a Calhoun and/or her administrative team until 5:00 PM every day. “There are no current discussions on hiring additional staff,” Calhoun said.
In some cases, not even 5:00 PM, as there have been occasions when Calhoun and her team have had to close early, at which point they post their expected return time and number for Public Safety on both the office door and at the building elevator for any emergencies that may arise.
Additionally, they make Band-Aids, ice packs, and feminine hygiene products available to Counseling Center staff so that they may distribute them to students in need.
But that is only a temporary measure, and there have been quite a few stories of students and staff who have marched up three flights of stairs only to find the place completely empty. However, due to confidentiality concerns, The Knight News cannot name any person by name.
The Office of Health Services at Queens College is a center that serves as a health guide for students, providing free or low-cost resources such as referrals, confidential consultations, and educational programs, all in an effort to help students cultivate a healthy semester and, as it says on the Health Services website, “optimum well-being.”
Calhoun’s responsibilities include providing free measles, mumps, and rubella vaccinations as well as free flu shot clinics for Summit residents and other students. She also educates students on such topics as sexually transmitted infections, birth control, substance and alcohol abuse, safer sex, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer awareness, and the importance of self-exams.
In addition to the above, Calhoun makes referrals to health insurance navigators to assist students in obtaining and maintaining health insurance, performs Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) eye exams, participates in and facilitates various campus wellness activities, including but not limited to Sex after Dark and New York Blood Center donation events among many others. The next event will be a “rest and relaxation” event this Wednesday from 11am to 3pm.