Letter to the Editor: Queens College Only Has One Nurse on Campus: What Does That Look Like?

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I’m writing in response to the story, “Queens College Only Has One Nurse on Campus: What Does That Look Like?” that appeared online in the Knight Newson December 5, 2023, and ask that you consider this letter for publication.

The college’s Health Services Center operates during business hours to provide free or low-cost resources, consultations, referrals, and educational programs as a benefit to the campus community. Much of Fatima Kahn’s reporting bears this out; portions of her article cite material we supplied in response to her request. However, I am writing to express my concern that in total, this Knight News story reads more like an opinion piece than a news item, since its underlying assumption is that the center should provide continuous access to medical care. Even as an editorial, the piece is problematic in its quoting of unidentified sources and “eyewitnesses” and the use of confusing and contradictory statements.

Particularly troubling is the statement that chaos surrounded a “medical emergency in the basement” of the Student Union where “police officers scrambled around the building trying to find this student for over eight minutes.” Miscommunication between Public Safety and NYPD EMS is a serious allegation that the college would review and address as appropriate. A fact-based approach to reporting would have entailed verification of these details with campus Public Safety or the NYPD, an option that was not pursued.

In addition, the story contains worrisome inconsistencies and contradictions. In reference to the Student Union “emergency,” Ms. Kahn writes, “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.” However, in her following paragraph, Ms. Kahn states that “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.” Since, as she notes, Public Safety—a 24-hour campus resource—is responsible for providing emergency assistance, it is inaccurate to conclude that faculty and staff are going without “proper assistance” outside of Nurse Calhoun’s shifts. In another example, Ms. Kahn writes that Nurse Calhoun should be available to identify the need for a doctor, but handle that need when a doctor is not available, even though, as Ms. Khan subsequently states, Nurse Calhoun is not a doctor.

The opinion-laden reporting is reflected in statements such as, “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.” As legitimate as these concerns may be, this is not reflective of fact-based reporting.

Ms. Khan states “. . . that when Nurse Calhoun or her staff are out of the office, they post their expected return time and the number for Public Safety for any emergencies that may arise,” and that Health Services staff makes “Band-Aids, ice packs, and feminine hygiene products available to Counseling Center staff so that they may distribute them to students in need.” Calling this a “temporary measure,” Ms. Khan adds that “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.” It may be that the Knight News wishes Health Services had more extensive services available, but that too would be an opinion. In an effort to serve students and staff even when closed, the Counseling Center staff provides materials when Health Services staff are not available. That is a fact.

Terri Calhoun has been a registered nurse for 35 years, 14 of which have been spent leading Health Services at Queens College. She is deeply committed to her role caring for the campus community, carrying it out with the utmost respect for clients and to the best of her professional ability. The mission of Queens College Health Services is to foster better health as it relates to individuals’ personal lives and academic performance. The free and respectful expression of a journalistic opinion is welcomed and supported on campus. In cases where it is warranted, we strongly encourage you to label it as such.

Thank you for your consideration in this matter.

Maria Matteo, Associate Director
Media and College Relations
Communications and Marketing

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