Many aspects of Bates campus life have changed this year, but Bates Health Services remains a resource for all students.
Health Services provides all of the same general medical services as last year in addition to caring for individuals diagnosed with COVID-19. “We still perform STI and UTI checks, offer birth control, care for injuries, and everything that is posted on our website,” said Kathy Morin, the office manager and a registered nurse (RN) at Bates Health Services.
Appointments are not required for students to make beforehand and walk-ins are still accepted during open hours. Walk-ins will only be asked to come back at a later time if all openings with a healthcare provider are full. Morin recommends that students call ahead of time and a nurse will make recommendations for an appointment if needed.
With the exception of Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) where only virtual appointments are being offered, all Health Services appointments are in-person. “Currently we do not have [virtual appointments] up and running but it has been discussed and might be available soon. No decisions have been made yet,” Morin said.
With cold and flu season approaching as we move towards Maine’s colder months, Health Services is prepared to care for students with symptoms while adhering to COVID-19 policies. Students feeling any COVID, flu, or cold symptoms should call the Health Services office before walking in. If this is on the same day the particular student is scheduled to be tested, they will not be tested at the usual Underhill testing center. Students should email the testing center at [email protected] to inform them that they are going to Health Services.
Bates Health Services may have found a way to provide care for all students to best fit the typical busy schedule of a Bates student with COVID-19 restrictions, but the process was not easy. Motions to adopt physical distancing and COVID-19 policies were made as early as March when staff began to undergo training.
“Our training sessions were in person, through written policy, direct teaching from the CDC, and/or during zoom meetings,” Morin says.
The training included instruction regarding proper donning and doffing of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which PPE is appropriate, how long PPE can be worn, proper physical distance spacing, and triaging patients both virtually and in-person. Triage allows RNs to determine the cases that need to be seen by a practitioner first, enabling potential COVID-19 cases to be recognized early.
Morin and the other RN, Maggie Leonard, are in charge of triaging walk-in patients and those who call beforehand. “I worked in a phone triage bank when[the virus] first started [to spread] so I was able to learn the correct questions to ask and to answer as well,” Morin said.
Just prior to students returning to campus, Health Services staff worked eight weeks straight in the Central Maine Medical Center testing site located in Lewiston. During those eight weeks, a few thousand people were tested, and unlike the self-collected tests Bates students receive twice a week, the testing they did was more invasive with one nurse, sometimes two, conducting the testing.
“I can say that with confidence, all of our experiences have helped us feel informed and technically competent to care for your needs during this pandemic,” Morin says.
Staff also received training in proper cleaning and sterilization techniques to further protect both staff and patients from possible COVID-19 transmission. The waiting room is cleaned between student use, and all doorknobs, including the outside door, are cleaned several times a day. Additionally, the exam rooms are cleaned between student visits by the clinical staff. Everything from the exam table to the stethoscope is sterilized after each use. The receptionist is in charge of cleaning their counter where the student stands and the shield in front of them.
It was also important for staff to receive training on their own personal health and wellbeing. Their PPE includes both face shields and masks which they are required to wear all day except when eating. Every day, they must complete a survey with Central Maine Medical Center, along with logging their temperature, to monitor their own health.
Bates Health Services understands that some students may feel anxious or nervous about going inside the building due to fear of contracting the COVID-19 virus. “It is very safe to come and be seen at [Bates Health Services] so we do not want students to forego being seen for any reason because of concerns that they might get sick,” Morin reassured.