Maybe that patch of ice catches you off guard. Or you take a digger playing basketball in Olson. Perhaps your throat hurts ev- ery time you swallow. Maybe you just need someone to talk to. Whatever the ailment, the staff at the Kjos Health Center, north wing of Hoyum, are there for you.
“I’d like to think that we can make you feel better here, but you can also learn something while you are here,” said Kathryn Benson, registered nurse and administrator of the Kjos Health Center.
According to Benson, the same services are available at the health center as if someone were to go to a downtown clinic, just on a smaller scale. These services range from first aid to flu shots to certified laboratory tests and X-rays.
If there is a service that cannot be provided on campus, or if a specialist is necessary, Benson and other faculty members at the health center will refer people out to specific practices within the Fargo-Moorhead com- munity.
The health center is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and provides a wide range of care, with the benefit of being directly on campus. Students can come in, have lab work done and then return to class if they feel up to it and it is safe for them to do so. If students were to go to off campus, they may have to miss classes simply because of wait and travel time, said Benson.
The health center can also be a valuable resource for students who do not have cars or who are unfamiliar with the Fargo-Moorhead area.
“I’ve heard Sanford is big up here, but I have no idea how they work or anything, so it is just very nice to have something on campus that everybody knows where it is,” said Leia Milton, a first year student.
Milton went to the health center for the first time back in September after she fainted in dining services while working food preparation. A co-worker caught her, and she was helped to the health center.
According to Milton, the nurse could tell that she was still shaken by what had happened and that she was nervous. After Milton explained what had happened, the nurse said, “Man, the things some girls do to fall into a guy’s arms,” to get a laugh out of Milton.
“I just thought that was really funny,” Milton said. “They were just really adamant about making me feel at ease.”
The first time for anything can be a bit nerve-wracking. When students enter the health center, the first thing to do is register with the receptionist, who will instruct them to fill out a slip with name and student ID number. Students can also put down what they want to be seen for specifically.
According to Benson, first-time patients will also have to sign a form promising confi- dentiality of their record, and assert that they have been informed of the fact that what happens at the health center stays at the health center according to the laws of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
Then there is a health risk assessment questionnaire with a full gamut of questions — from “Do you wear a seatbelt?” to “Have you been sexually assaulted?”. The question- naire helps staff there understand more about the patient’s history and gives them insight to what questions they should be asking.
According to Benson, the health center also works collaboratively with the counseling center. Students may be referred from one to the other, or vice versa. In those cases, because of HIPAA laws, students must sign a release form so that the practitioners can visit and work together for the benefit of the student.
Most students are then seen by Benson, who asks them some questions and may take their vitals. If it is something that needs to be seen by the nurse practitioner, Cheryl Ross, then Ross will see the student and ask them questions as well to determine what the diagnosis is and what can be done to help, said Benson.
Dylan Harcey, another first year student, went to the health center to have a concussion test done after getting hit in the head while foam weapon fighting.
“I initially was not going to go, to be honest, but … it was enough to where I was bleeding and I had a really bad black eye,” Harcey said.
According to Harcey, his mom persuaded him to at least go to the health center if he was not going to go to the hospital. So Harcey went in, and the nurse took him into an examination room and asked him questions relating to the injury.
Harcey was then seen by the nurse practitioner who ran some tests of her own. She recommended that he stay home for the day to rest, and to come back the next day if the condition didn’t improve, said Harcey.
According to Benson, consultations with the nurse practitioner will be charged to students’ insurances, so students should make sure that they bring their insurance cards with them.
“A student should have their insurance card on them all the time, whether they are seen here or someplace else, even if they aren’t sick, that should just be in your wallet just in case,” Benson said. “It’s something that you should always carry with you.”
The health center has a contract with Family HealthCare Center clinic in Fargo. According to Benson, they do the billing for the health center, since Ross is employed by them.
The health center also runs its lab tests through a courier system with Sanford, which allows the health center to have tests processed and results received anywhere from as little as an hour to the next morning. Sanford is also another option where students can receive a variety of care.
According to Harcey, although he showed the symptoms of a concussion, he was not officially diagnosed with a concussion as he remembered the accident and could func- tion pretty well, but his mother was still concerned.
“My mom ended up calling the school, and she wanted me to go get a brain scan done, because my mom is my mom,” Harcey said. “So then I ended up having my RA drive me to … Sanford in Moorhead.”
There, Harcey received more of the same. The doctor there said that Harcey showed the symptoms of a concussion, but that he never lost consciousness since he could recount the incident, and that his brain scan came back normal.
“The health center doctor told me exactly what the other doctor told me, and I’m as- suming she told me for cheaper,” Harcey said. “[The health center] staff is really, really nice, and they were genuinely concerned. [Plus] I live in Hoyum, so it is literally 90 to 100 feet to the door.”
The health center is located in the north wing of Hoyum, and the space was original- ly designed to be a student gathering space, complete with a kitchen, according to Benson. Around 30 years ago, the health center was moved to Hoyum after the building it was previously in was torn down. Since Benson has been here, it has only seen renovations once.
“We got new paint and we got some new wall paper and we recovered these glorious things,” Benson said, patting a vinyl chair. “But that was it.”
Benson had a student come in once who took a look around and said that the place was beautiful in that it was so very retro.
“I have never had a student or a parent complain that we don’t look up to date, so I’m hoping that that means that they are only seeing the people who care about them and the people who want to make them feel better,” Benson said.
The number of students who go to the health center services depends on the time of year, according to Benson. More people come in during flu season, after coming back from vacations and during finals. No matter the case, though, Benson and the other staff at the health center always try to be friendly and welcoming.
“There are tears that happen here. There are hugs that happen here. We can take the time that people downtown can’t necessarily take,” Benson said. “And I think that we have the opportunity to develop relationships because we have you for four years.”
For Benson, who has been working here for many years, those relationships are incredibly valuable. She gets to see students blossom and grow in their time here. Benson also gets to help students learn about their own health, including self-care and good de- cision making, such as eating healthily, exer- cising and getting enough sleep.
According to Benson, her heart lies with students because there is an energy there, in that age group, that is exciting. It has helped her to look at situations and circumstances in different lights, through different pairs of eyes.
“I’ve probably learned more from you students and have received more from you students than what I have given over the years, because I have been the recipient of humor, good humor,” Benson said. “And I need that, and I hope I give that sometimes. I have also been the recipient of amazing compassion.”
Over the last four to five years, Benson has been dealing with lung cancer. According to her, students have responded with compas- sion and with the ability to think beyond themselves.
“I don’t think that you young people realize — and maybe that is our fault since we haven’t told you about it — but I don’t know if sometimes you have any idea what value or what a gift it is to have young friends,” Benson said. “It’s just that there has been a special gift that comes from students. I should call you students, whatever, you’re my kids, and I say that with affection and with respect.”