COVID-19 response Health and wellness
One call away
Even though Loyola University Chicago campus buildings are temporarily closed, the Wellness Center is very much open for business
There are finals to prepare for, internships to land, jobs to secure. Even in the most straightforward of years, April can be a demanding month on a college campus like Loyola University Chicago. And this is no typical April. Not by a long-shot.
Joan Holden, the director of Loyola’s Wellness Center, understands the pressures that students are facing as they try to close out the spring term remotely, with the country reeling from an extraordinarily disruptive public health crisis. The University has shifted skillfully to online learning, but the transition is not without hiccups. Their academic futures, not to mention the future of the global economy, can feel cloudy. Days can bleed together. Friends or family may fall ill, or worse. “Everyone who is going through this is experiencing a lot of anxiety,” Holden says. “The lack of social contact and social isolation can be very debilitating for people.”
Even though classrooms in Chicago and Maywood are temporarily closed, the Wellness Center, Holden emphasizes, is very much open for business. Students can still receive medical advice through the standard Dial-A-Nurse service. Same goes for the hotline set up to assist those seeking support and resources on sexual and relationship violence. For mental health concerns, the Wellness Center continues to provide telephone assessments and care management, along with referrals.
“The initial way that students access Wellness Center services is very similar,” says Mira Krivoshey, assistant director for health promotion. “The only difference is that, other than someone answering the phone [in the office], students have to call and leave a message and someone calls them back.” (Those calls are returned from a blocked number within two hours during office hours, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.)
What is new, as of April 13? The ability for students currently living in Illinois to utilize tele-therapy and/or tele-medicine, upon the recommendation of their initial screener. These sessions are essentially substitutes for the therapy or medical appointments that students would normally take with clinicians in-person, were shelter restrictions not in place. It took a few weeks to address sticky legal and technical questions about electronic consent and HIPAA compliance, and then to promote those new services through social media and newsletters.
Now, though, referred patients can sign a consent form and speak face-to-face with a professional by logging into Zoom, using enhanced security features developed with the guidance Information Technology Services. “These are highly secure conversations,” Holden says. “We didn’t want to have any Zoom-bombing going on.”
In the first week that tele-health was up-and-running, 48 students scheduled appointments. Holden was encouraged by that burst of participation, and by the University’s general creativity in reaching young people under duress. The Wellness Center will offer tele-health for as long as the Wellness Center is working remotely. Once safely back on campus, they’ll explore how they might extend or adapt tele-health going forward.
In the meantime, they are hosting drop-in mindfulness meditations and virtual community circles, anything to help Loyolans stay engaged and level-headed. As Holden says, “We’re just trying our best to meet the needs of our students in this unusual way.”