When a student calls home to say, “I’m sick,” parents will feel helpless. You have always helped your child through illness or injuries, but now you can’t check his temperature or fix her a cup of tea with honey.
Students are not alone at college, and while they will have to manage their health, resources are available. Most colleges and universities have a health center or an agreement with a local health provider where their students can obtain medical and mental health services. There may be peer health advocates in the residence hall who can help determine the severity of a situation and get the student to a clinic or hospital if needed.
Most important, though, is that students should know when to seek help and how to use their health insurance, and they should be able to manage any chronic health conditions. Be sure your student has a health insurance card showing the name of the insurance company and policy identification. If patients need approval from the company before seeking care out of the policy’s coverage area, your student must know how to obtain that approval. Students who have a documented health condition or learning disability that requires assistive accommodations to access academic services, campus environments, and resources should contact the school’s disability office. It is important to note that post-secondary schools do not have the same responsibilities for accommodation as K-12 schools. For information, click here.
Students with a long-term health condition that requires self-monitoring should understand the symptoms that signal care is needed. It helps if they explain their condition to any roommates or near neighbors and let someone know symptoms to be alert to and steps to take if the student needs help
As a first step for all students, before they get sick, they should make contact with the health clinic where they will be receiving care. Students should provide a copy of their medical records, including immunizations and vaccinations, to the health center when they arrive on campus. The information from those medical records will be important if your student should need care.
By law, health care providers are not allowed to notify parents or family members when a college-aged student is ill, unless the student releases that information. Typically colleges and universities will not contact parents about a health care emergency if the student is capable of communicating that information. If the student is unable to communicate, most institutions will inform parents or a designated emergency contact. Families should discuss health care and what to do in an emergency before a crisis occurs, and students should indicate an emergency contact on their school records. It is recommended that students have “In Case of Emergency” information in their wallet and on their cell phone, and they should give family contact information to roommates or a close friend. Parents should also have a roommate’s or friend’s contact information in case they cannot connect with their student. A sample HIPAA release form is available online, Here.