November 1st, 2012
Because it is cold and flu season, and there have been some cases of mononucleosis, the Parent Programs office has received a number of questions recently about what happens when their student goes to the Student Health Service – how are parents notified of their illness. We asked Dr. Cecil Price, the Director of Student Health Service, to explain that process. This information is covered in the Parents’ Page Q&A section (where you can find a lot of other information about most aspects of campus life), but we wanted to put it here as well.
What if my student is ill? Do I get notified, and if so, how?
If a parent calls asking to speak with a staff member of the Student Health Service, the parent will be told that we cannot discuss the care without the student’s permission. Health Service personnel will attempt to contact the student to get permission to discuss the provided healthcare if a parent calls. Parents can also ask their student to contact the Health Service to give permission to discuss the diagnosis and care. In some cases, students may have already provided this permission during the visit.
Parents are welcomed to call and speak to a Health Service clinician; however, information concerning the diagnosis and treatment of the student cannot be provided to the parent without the student’s permission.
In general for non-emergency cases, the Health Service will not notify parents of their children’s illnesses or visits unless directed to do so by the student. In urgent or emergent situations, we usually ask for permission to contact parents.
Permission to discuss care is generally limited to a particular problem; if the student returns at a later date for a different concern, permission again would need to be provided by the student before Health Service personnel would be able to provide information about the new illness or injury.
In cases of true emergencies one of the following will happen:
* Student Health will get permission from the student to talk with their parents at the time of transfer (if we haven’t already been in touch with the parents in the course of the evaluation and treatment here in the Health Service).
* Student Health routinely notifies the Chaplain’s Office when a student is referred to the emergency room or hospital (without providing information of the nature of the medical problem). The Chaplain’s Office is also notified by Residence Life staff when they are aware of any student being transferred to the hospital for care (independent of our notification). The Chaplains are usually in contact with parents as they follow-up with students at the hospital (this is done in a very timely fashion).
* There is a “phone tree” managed by Residence Life staff where a variety of Student Life staff and Student Health are notified when campus police or Residence Life are aware of a transfer to the ER or hospital.
* In life-threatening situations, informing the family does take on a high priority. There is usually a conversation between Student Health, Student Services, the Chaplain’s office, and the emergency room physician about the nature of the problem and the best way to provide information to parents. These conversations have always happened in these situations and are handled on a case-by-case basis based upon the particular circumstances.
One general exception to the above is that Student Health does not notify parents if students are referred to the emergency room for “routine” care for alcohol intoxication. ”Routine” means the student not in a life threatening situation, but they do need care beyond the scope of Student Health (a higher level of monitoring as they recover from the alcohol). In cases of life-threatening situations related to alcohol (or other drug) use, the statement above would apply.