Gabrielle Friedman: Streamline Student Health Service

With winter break over, students return to campus with stories of travels abroad, holiday hookups and an unexpected souvenir: cold symptoms. Whether it is the result of traveling on germ-infested airplanes or spending too many hours making snowmen outside, it is impossible to walk through campus without spotting someone coughing, sneezing, or wheezing in general disarray. If starting off a new semester with sniffles was not frustrating enough, some professors’ policy of requiring a note from Student Health Service to prove your illness after you miss class will surely have you feeling worse.

To be sure, I understand why professors want students to provide a note documenting an illness. In theory, this procedure ensures that a student is not slacking. I take no issue with this premise. However, in reality, Student Health Service is in no way equipped to effectively provide sick students with notes in a convenient way.

The following is an all-too-common scenario: You wake up and feel absolutely horrible. You are hot, coughing uncontrollably and cannot remember the last time you could inhale through your nose. You need rest, but in order to get an excused absence from class, you must make an appointment at Student Health or walk over and spend a great deal of time waiting to be seen by someone who will just confirm the obvious: You are sick, but not so sick that you need hospitalization or medication.

Students who visit Student Health who are obviously sick and simply desire a note to prove that fact should not have to go through an extensive process to receive a note that, in actuality, should take two minutes to produce. Unfortunately, the current process of obtaining a sick note is counterintuitive to the goal of simply staying home, resting and getting healthy. Therefore, a new process must be set up where only students who are visibly sick and are clearly presenting cold or flu symptoms can get their required note quickly.

Student Health needs to develop a system where students who simply need a note can come in and request one. If all a student wants to do is go back to sleep and treat his or her simple cold with NyQuil and chicken soup, a full examination is unnecessary. There are visible cues that would signal a student is sick: a runny nose, congestion, coughing, sneezing and even a quick check of a student’s temperature could all be assessed without a full examination. This action would also free up the physicians’ time for other students who do not know why they are feeling sick and actually need to be seen by a doctor – essentially, it would be a win-win situation for both students and physicians.

Additionally, GW students would greatly benefit if Student Health waived or reduced the $25 fee for students who are only seeking a sick note and do not need to have a full consultation. It is unfair for students to have to shell out $25 every time a physician sticks a thermometer in their mouths and tells them what they already know. In reality, the students with minor illnesses only go to Student Health to appease their professors, and as this is not a voluntary action on the student’s part, Student Health should consider reducing the service charge for students who only seek a simple look-over and piece of medical stationary.

Being sick while at school often means homework piling up as you spend hours sleeping and are unable to get out of bed. It means an aching head and a sore throat and a general feeling of despair over missing work and feeling ill. However, with a few changes to Student Health Service’s policy, the quest for a doctor’s note when sick won’t mean wasting time and money. It is imperative that Student Health Service takes these recommendations seriously, as this is feasibly the only medical service available to GW students.

Gabrielle Friedman, a sophomore majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet columnist.

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