Health Services nears end of search for a new director to combat delay in student appointments. Collegian file photo.
GABI MORANDO | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
After six months without a director, Health Services is in the final stages of the hiring process. Scott Peden, the executive director for student well-being who has assumed responsibility of director, said he hopes to have a new director in place before winter break.
Former Health Services director, Rhonda Jackson, left on April 30, 2021 and the open position was not posted until August 2021. Peden said hiring a new director took a backseat to entry COVID-19 testing, updating vaccination records and getting the clinic going for the fall semester.
In addition to losing their director, Health Services has lost multiple other staff members within the last year. Physician Maria Fletcher said this year has been challenging with the multiple staff losses.
“This last year has been difficult for us in many ways,” Fletcher said. “We lost our director, we lost two of our longtime front office people, two nurses, and I lost my part-time doctor … I’m working a little bit more in that I don’t finish everything at work, or like I stay at work till nine o’clock at night because I just can’t finish my charting because it’s one patient, next, one patient, next, next, next.”
Two new nurses have recently been hired, bringing the total number of nurses up to four. Fletcher said she feels like Health Services is now “comfortably staffed,” even though they could benefit from hiring another doctor. While the limited staff has put pressure on Fletcher and the other professionals at Health Services, Fletcher said the lack of a director has been the biggest struggle she’s faced this year.
“Our biggest challenge is not having a director,” Fletcher said. “Every question that needs to be answered will be asked of me. I’m not a director, I’m a doctor.”
According to Peden, Health Services received about 25 applicants for the director position. Peden and other stakeholders including students, the vice president of student affairs, the dean of students, partners in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and HRC staff narrowed down the 25 applicants to eight. The eight remaining candidates interviewed over the phone and then two were selected to advance.
The final two candidates came to campus Oct. 25 and Oct. 26 to interview with Peden and other members of the stakeholder group.
Peden, who organized the search and made the job description based off of feedback from stakeholders, said Health Services is looking for a leader more than anything else.
“I’ve done my best in a temporary role,” Peden said. “But [Health Services] really needs to have someone who’s physically present right there all the time and has experience working in a leadership, management role. It’s one thing to be an excellent healthcare provider, but it’s another sort of skill to be an effective leader, so that’s what we’re looking for is a good combination of both.”
In the period of transition between directors, Peden said students reported weeks before they could be seen in the clinic. When students went online to make an appointment, an automatic prompt would appear saying “no available appointments during this time slot.” This turned out to be a technical issue previous director Jackson put in place to have students call the front office instead of scheduling online. Peden and the Health Services team were not aware of the protocol.
Students are no longer able to schedule online appointments to be seen in the clinic. Peden explained that this change allows students to get appointment slots more appropriately because the front desk can assess students’ issues and its urgency level. Students can call 317-940-9385 to schedule an appointment.
Sophomore exploratory communication major, Nina Steinberg, went to the HRC earlier this month after throwing up blood and waking up with “excruciating back pain.” Steinberg arrived at the HRC around 8:30 a.m and was told that there was no doctor in, so she wouldn’t be able to be seen for two hours. Unable to be treated at the HRC for her later diagnosed kidney stone, Steinberg went to an emergency room instead.
“I wish that the HRC had some kind of emergency system prepared for students,” Steinberg said. “It added a lot more stress to have to go off campus, and I even tried to drive myself which could have ended very badly.”
Acknowledging that appointments may not always be available because of students’ schedules or the HRC’s number of available appointments, Peden said that the HRC is “always here for the students especially if there’s an urgent situation.”
As someone with over 40 years of experience in clinical work, Fletcher said that the Health Services team provides better service than any other outpatient care she has previously been involved with. Fletcher said Health Services prioritizes students and strives to serve them in the most effective and efficient ways possible.
“Most of us are parents and totally understand the issues the students have, and strive to be as accessible to students as much as we can, as long as it will maintain our standards of care,” Fletcher said. “Quality takes time … We value continuity, full engagement, patient education and support, but most of all, listening to your needs and helping you in as many ways as we can.”