UT needs to provide more health services during evening hours

Julia Zaksek

You get the flu. It’s 3 a.m. You’re nauseous and feverish. After a few hours, you go down to the front desk of your resident hall. The resident assistant on call tells you there’s nothing they can do but direct you to the UHS page and UT’s 24-hour nurse line. Or they offer to call you an ambulance. You settle with stopping by the UT urgent care when they open the next day.

The University needs more accessible health services for students during the evening and nighttime. UT has several health facilities for students, including the University Health Services Center and the UHS Urgent Care facility. However, the UHS Center opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 5 p.m. on weekdays. UHS urgent care opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 5:30 p.m. on weekdays. 

Needing medical assistance in the middle of the night can be frightening, especially for first-year students. Dan Martinez, a business freshman and Jester East resident, said he was uncertain of how to properly care for himself when he began experiencing a severe nosebleed one evening.

“Throughout the night, my nose wouldn’t stop bleeding, and I really didn’t know what to do,” Martinez said.

A few weeks ago, I woke up with throat and chest pain. After a few hours, I went down to my dorm’s front desk. When the RA on call said she could take me to see a doctor, I initially thought she meant someone at an UHS facility. When she told me she could only take me to the emergency room in the back of an ambulance, I was shocked. An ambulance for something so relatively minor seemed unreasonable. I just went back upstairs. 

When a student resident has a medical concern after the UHS facilities close, the options for the on call RA are limited. They can call an ambulance or suggest browsing the UHS website for resources. 

However, ambulances and unplanned emergency room visits can be extremely expensive. Emergency care is often not necessary for students experiencing moderate health problems, such as vomiting or a low-grade fever. 

“It is more about convenience,” Martinez said. “I’m not going to go to the hospital and pay the full price for the same treatment or examination I could get here if the UHS was open or some other service was available.” 

Extended nighttime hours for the UHS facilities are not feasible due to current funding allocation, according to Sherry Bell, the UHS Consumer Education and Outreach coordinator. 

Bell advises students to call UT’s 24-hour nurse advice line. For some students, though, it isn’t a proper substitute for in-person care they may need. 

According to Aaron Voyles, the director for residence hall operations, students need the best possible care for their medical needs. Voyles says that the UHS and area hospitals will give students the best care. 

But UHS closes too early, and area hospitals can quickly become expensive. There are other, less costly ways for students on campus to receive care.

If RAs received first aid certification in order to deal with small-scale medical emergencies, they could provide quality care in the comfort of the students’ residence halls. 

Residence halls might also consider adding a night nurse to their staff. In-person care is a big step towards bettering student health resources at all hours.

For many students, navigating healthcare is a task that can be daunting. When sickness or injury strikes late at night, students shouldn’t have to choose between an expensive, unnecessary trip to the hospital or riding out painful symptoms. UT should introduce its own new forms of nighttime care for students. 

Zaksek is a Plan II and women’s and gender studies freshman from Allen.