Student trust in Lehigh’s Health and Wellness Center is taking a positive shift despite differing opinions about the center’s efficiency, according to recent data from a student satisfaction survey.
The Health and Wellness Center has treated over 2,400 students since Aug. 1, according to its self-recorded data. Located in Johnson Hall, the center is staffed with multiple physicians, nurse practitioners and nurses with emergency room experience.
The University Counseling and Psychological Services has received similar feedback from students.
Karen Sicinski, the center’s nursing director, said she doesn’t think students always understand the full scope of practice they provide.
Sicinski said there are very few cases where they would instruct students to seek care from a different healthcare institution, with the main exception being emergencies.
“Sometimes we get this thought that we may not have real doctors and real nurses here, which is not the case,” Sicinski said. “All of our doctors can prescribe medications. All of us have worked in a variety of healthcare settings.”
In the survey, 95.5% of respondents said they would recommend the Health and Wellness Center to a friend or classmate. It was also rated a 4.72 out of 5 for overall care in the same survey.
The positive trends in the Health and Wellness Center’s recent data signify more trust from the students, but this wasn’t always the mass perception, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sicinski pointed to a period of staff transitioning and a switch to telehealth appointments during the peak of the pandemic as potential reasons for some students’ negative viewpoints at the time. These changes were not uncommon in the healthcare industry, but Sicinski said they hit Lehigh particularly hard.
She believes those troubles are behind them and said they have been fully staffed since January 2023.
The center is prepared for all medical issues students have, as some students only need to pick up a COVID test or box of tissues, while others need more substantial care.
Anthony Direnzo, ‘26, has had frequent interactions with the Health and Wellness Center since he first came to Lehigh.
When Direnzo stepped on campus for first-year orientation in the fall of 2022, he struggled with all the traditional struggles of adapting to college life, but he found out he would have to also deal with a debilitating disease.
In his first week at Lehigh, Direnzo was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
“I lost 20 pounds,” Direnzo said. “I had to start routinely taking medicine. My whole life was changed forever.”
Direnzo needs his Crohn’s treatment in the form of a medical injection every six weeks, but the medicine must be shipped through the university’s Health and Wellness Center.
He said getting his Crohn’s disease treatment through the center is always easy, as they notify him through email as soon as his medicine is ready to be picked up.
However, Direnzo said when he feels sick with something not related to his Crohn’s disease, he said he thinks it’s better to avoid the Health and Wellness Center because of their scheduling process.
Students can walk in to pick up medicine, but they need to call in advance for an appointment.
“Most people don’t anticipate feeling sick until either the morning of or the night before,” Direnzo said. “Most times you’re not getting an appointment for a day (or) two days. I would say that there definitely needs to be a little more efficiency in how it’s done.”
Sicinski said most students who call will get an appointment that same day.
She said the most common reason students visit is upper respiratory infections, with reproductive health being the second most common and mental healthcare being the third.
Also located in Johnson Hall is the University Counseling and Psychological Services, Lehigh’s mental health service office which is a separate entity from the Health and Wellness Center.
Gabrielle Rocchino, a staff psychologist at the University Counseling and Psychological Services, said it’s common for people to conflate the two offices.
Rocchino said her office heard from students calling for more staff members to decrease wait times. Wait times have decreased from their longest time of 10 days in 2021, but she said there is room for improvement.
“That’s a long time for students if you’re wanting to connect for support,” Rocchino said. “We’ve really reduced that so students can get in sooner. But of course, it always depends on their schedule.”
The office increased the number of staff members each year, Rocchino said, including two full-time psychologists who were added this year.
Both the Health and Wellness Center and the University Counseling and Psychological Services have increased staff since the pandemic struggles.
“Since then (the period of staff transition during the pandemic), I think we’ve bounced back pretty good,” Sicinski said. “We still (are dealing with) COVID, but we can deal with it differently and focus on the other needs of the students on campus.”