A sniffle, sore throat and lethargy are symptoms of the common cold or the aftermath of an eventful college weekend. These symptoms can also be the onset of COVID-19, which Point Loma Nazarene University’s Wellness Center has been engaged in treating since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Wellness Center offers COVID-19 tests for students who are feeling under the weather, including weekly surveillance testing for students who are not vaccinated. Aside from COVID-19 related aid, the Wellness Center offers medical, nutrition and counseling services.
However, some students have found it challenging to receive aid from the medical service facility with non-COVID-19 related issues.
Annabelle Rogers, first year pre-nursing major, has been to the Wellness Center multiple times since moving on campus to test for a variety of illnesses, including COVID-19, the flu, mono and strep.
Between getting tested in the blue box, which is an isolation room located outside of the Wellness Center, and within the clinic itself, the pre-nursing major has experienced different levels of care.
Rogers was attended to and tested by nurses, whom she felt were thorough with their care.
“I don’t feel like just one of their patients they are trying to get out, but I feel heard and seen. Whereas inside, I don’t feel heard or cared for,” Rogers said via an email interview with The Point.
Rogers came to the Wellness Center feeling feverish in November and was told to go to class regardless of feeling ill.
“I was sicker than a dog; I woke up every night at 4 a.m. shaking, shivering, feeling the worst pain I’ve ever felt. They tested me for strep and said you just have the common bug going around,” Rogers said.
The pre-nursing student asked if she could miss class to rest.
“The doctor literally said that I should go to class because sicknesses spread anyway and there is no point in trying to suppress it. That night I felt guilty about not going to my lab, so I went! And let me tell you, I barely made it through that three hour lab,” Rogers said.
Rogers also went to the Wellness Center to test for a potential ear infection.
“They attempted to clean out my ears and that’s when the doctor said he ‘could’ give me medication in case it is an infection, but he is all about conserving medical supplies,” Rogers said.
Rogers is still convinced that she has an ear infection.
Similar to Rogers, first year pre-nursing major Alicia Vieira has either been injured or ill throughout much of her first semester of college.
“In the first weeks, I sprained my ankle very badly and the Wellness Center [was] very kind and aided me greatly,” Vieira said.
Vieira went again after having a sore throat, cough, lethargy, and body aches. She tested negative for COVID-19 and the flu and was told that she had a cold. After remaining sick for two weeks, Vieira went home and visited a doctor, where she was diagnosed with an acute upper respiratory infection, ear infection, and conjunctivitis.
Vieira went to the Wellness Center for a third time after Halloween weekend.
“I was extremely sick; my throat felt like it was closing up, my chest hurt, I had trouble breathing and getting out of bed,” she said.
Vieira was tested for COVID-19 and her test came back negative.
“I asked, practically having to beg, for them to please examine to figure out what was wrong with me, and why I had experienced such a perpetual state of illness for the entirety of my freshman year thus far,” she said. “Sadly, they told me there was not much that I could do except wait it out.”
Vieira took an Uber to urgent care where she was diagnosed with acute bronchitis, laryngitis, and pharyngitis.
“They prescribed me a five-day antibiotic. Literally three days into my dosage, I drastically turned the corner and felt much better,” She said.
The inability for the Wellness Center to diagnose Vieira made her wary of their capacity to provide quality care.
“They seemed like they just focused on if I had COVID-19, and once they found I didn’t, they didn’t try to solve the illness that made my freshman year so difficult,” Vieira said.
Rogers expected the Wellness Center to act as a normal urgent care or medical facility for young college students who may not have cars or accessibility to outside medical resources.
“I expected them to acknowledge that there are other illnesses rather than [COVID-19], to provide the medication I need, [and] have a professor’s note to at least make up a quiz or exam,” Rogers said.
Emma McCoy, third year literature major has found it difficult to obtain medical resources and make appointments with the Wellness Center.
“They don’t have physician resources. . .when I was sick, it [the lack of resources] forced me to go to urgent care and then the ER,” McCoy said in an email interview.
McCoy expected the Wellness Center to be more accessible to students and does not view it as a viable option for people who need medical care.
“The physician isn’t actually there for three or four days of the week and it can be up to a week to get an appointment. It’s really not feasible for students who need help that day, especially [for] freshmen without a car,” McCoy said.
Vieira wishes for the Wellness Center to be open more frequently.
The Wellness Center is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. It is closed during the summer and on university holidays.
“If you get sick at 5 p.m. on Friday, it’s going to be a pretty rough weekend for you. There is always a long wait, and it is difficult to make an appointment around your class schedules,” Vieira said.
Despite the challenges, both Rogers and Vieira express their gratitude for the employees of the Wellness Center.
“The Wellness Center has done a great job at their testing sights such as the blue box. Every nurse that has helped me has been exceptional,” Rogers said.
The Wellness Center declined The Point’s requests for comments.
Mary Paul, vice president of spiritual life and formation, whose office oversees the Wellness Center commented on the Wellness Center’s inability to respond.
“The reality is that in the Wellness Center both the [COVID-19] and non-[COVID-19] side of care are swamped with high levels of demand. This is true across higher ed universities in this season. I do know that in all cases any student in crisis will get immediate attention,” Paul said via an email interview with The Point.
Written By: Katie Morris