As part of an initiative to reduce wait times and improve scheduling for patients who need same-day care, the Hammond Health Center is no longer accepting walk-in patients. Instead, all visitors to the health center will have to make an appointment in advance.
For patients who feel it is necessary to receive same-day care, the center will offer a limited number of same-day appointments each day between the hours of 8 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Monday–Friday and Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., which will be filled on a first-call basis. Advance appointments can still be made during the health center’s normal operating hours.
Michelle Holt, nursing and clinic manager at the Center for Counseling, Health and Wellness, said the new system would allow the health center to see as many visitors as in the past. The center reserves approximately 50 slots — the average number of walk-in visitors they would take during a typical day — at 15-minute intervals for same-day appointments. About six staff members work each day to address the various needs of health center visitors.
Holt said there will likely be days where appointments are left over, but there may also be days where if students wait to call until late in the day, all of the same-day slots may already be filled.
“We made it so that we would hopefully meet all of those appointment needs,” Holt said.
Laura Keefe, operations manager at the Center for Counseling, Health and Wellness, said the updated system was designed with students in mind.
“We’re hoping it’ll even out the flow of patients that we see throughout the day, but in addition, I think students want appointments,” Keefe said. “I think they would prefer to know that they will come in and be seen within a scheduled time.”
Members of the health center’s staff said they believe the change would positively impact the student body. Jennifer Metzgar, nurse practitioner at the Center for Counseling, Health and Wellness, said the new system would hopefully allow students to plan their days more effectively.
“Most students were able to get in and out of the clinic within an hour,” Metzgar said. “Some of the trouble was we were noticing more than 10 or 15 students walking in at the exact same time, and those students were having to wait a little longer.”
Michelle Holt, nursing and clinic manager at the Center for Counseling, Health and Wellness, said there was a noticeable jump in the number of walk-in patients when students were let out of classes.
“We certainly were able to tell when classes got out because … we would have a line of students out the front door,” Holt said, resulting in a chorus of understanding laughter from her colleagues.
One of the main goals of this change is to reduce the wait times of students who visit the health center, Metzgar said.
Students had mixed reactions to the announcement.
Freshman Justin Rouzier said he went to the health center twice during the fall semester. Both times he visited, he said he did not schedule an appointment in advance.
Rouzier said during one instance, he walked in without an appointment due to a minor injury and missed class due to a one-hour wait time. He said the new plan seemed promising to address the wait-time issue.
“It may not be as convenient, but it’s not like it’s hard to reach them,” Rouzier said. “You can just call them. They always answer the phone. It’s no more than a five-minute conversation.”
Freshman Hayley Kretchmer visited the health center on multiple occasions last fall. She said she waited approximately 20 minutes each time she visited without an appointment. However, she said she also waited before scheduled appointments as well, although the wait for walk-ins was usually longer.
“I understand where they’re coming from, but I feel like if they only have a limited number of spots at the beginning of the day for people to call in, then there are going to be more students than appointment slots that they have,” Kretchmer said.
Junior Anne Sparaco, who also visited the health center last semester, said she did not feel confident that the changes were an effective way to address these problems. For some students, she said, walk-in visits can lead to discoveries of more urgent problems that may not have been noticed quickly.
“I can understand why they think it might help, but I feel like it would cause more disturbance among the students,” Sparaco said. “It was worth the wait for me. If I didn’t have that walk-in, I probably would’ve gotten sick — really sick.”
However, Keefe said the health center planned the new system with these concerns in mind.
“We’ve built the schedule to allow enough slots for the average number of walk-in patients we were seeing a day,” said Keefe.
However, Metzgar added that students who were having severe reactions or symptoms would still be quickly addressed by staff at the clinic.
For students who are ill, Holt said the center offers several over–the–counter medications as well as a number of same-day appointments to address more pressing needs.
Students can schedule both advance and same-day appointments by calling the health center at (607) 274-3177. Nonurgent appointments can also be scheduled through the MyICHealthCenter online portal.