New Changes in Sykes Emphasize Prevention

Students utilize the Rebecca M. Sykes Wellness Center for health concerns of all types, something that Amy Patel, Medical Director, calls a “holistic approach” to well-being. As flu season looms and students begin to buckle down with an increased amount of work, however, Sykes has been working to improve and change their approach to healthcare.

While Sykes does employ the traditional, reactive measures of healthcare, Patel said that Sykes has also been attempting to encourage students to take earlier, preventative measures. Reactive treatment refers to care given to patients immediately, in the moment, and to combat an affliction. Preventative treatment, according to Patel, is as simple as handwashing and as involved as immunization.

“If somebody’s sick or injured or has a health need, holistic health need… so mind, body, heart, any type of health need… we will address that need,” said Patel.

Patel continued, “But at the same time, every single visit that we have with a student is an opportunity to think through how to build someone’s toolbox of information. So we care about those immediate health needs, but we also want to be able to help students in the future as well, as they think about their healthy lifestyle choices and take more of a preventative approach.”

Patel also explained how Sykes is in the process of utilizing social media and other, less conventional forms of health and wellness education. More specifically, the use of technology and social media in an attempt to reach more students in a more concise and approachable way.

“We really want to be able to bring more social media tools into the conversation too, right, because someone’s more likely to see a quick one or two lines, or a meme, or a poster, than to read four paragraphs in an email from me, from an adult,” said Patel.

Patel used handwashing as an area of education in which Sykes can harness social media.

Patel said, “Immunizing the community is one of the ways that we want to be thinking about prevention, but equally important is handwashing. Which seems so simple, but as we get it’s something that, as we get busy, we often aren’t thinking about as much as we should, and in our close community we’ve seen countless examples of sharing, and sharing is always great but sharing germs is one way that we want to be able to promote a preventative strategy around handwashing.”

Another new addition to the goals of Sykes is a measure used to counteract allergic reactions, called AllerTrain. Agatha Kip, Nutritionist and Registered Dietician, has been trained in the traditionally college-applied program, as has the entire Paresky Commons and medical staff. Ellen Callahan, Nurse Practitioner, explained how the nursing staff was formally trained to combat food-borne allergies.

“We all did a formal allergy training right before school started this year. So we learned about allergies in nursing school, but we did a formal training so now we are all trained in allergies as is the dining hall. Mrs. Kip was the one who spearheaded that campaign,” said Callahan.

Patel hopes that the program will extend to other on-campus adults in order to most effectively combat adverse allergic effects.

Patel said, “We know that more and more people have allergies, and most of them are around sensitivities to particular foods. And so, in an effort to try and prevent any allergic responses to foods, we want to do more training.”

“Ms. Kip was certified in a program called AllerTrain, which is a program that’s being used in the college setting and one that we’re now bringing into the high-school setting at Andover, and so our whole medical team has been trained, the Paresky team has been trained. We’d love to be able to broaden this to other adults on campus as well as students, because that’s a really great example of prevention,” continued Patel.

Sykes has also been working to improve the availability of the mental health facilities. While counselors are available during the traditional 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. hours, there is also an on-call counselor available for students all hours of the day.

“I know that there are five counselors downstairs. I know you can reach a counselor many different ways. You can walk in to see somebody, you can call and schedule an appointment, you can walk in and schedule an appointment for the future. There is always a counselor on call,” said Callahan.

Callahan continued, “During the daytime, we call them the CL counselor. And so if you walk in, and you really need to see someone right away, we can pull them. They’re available to see you; they don’t do regular appointments that day. Then, in the middle of the night if you come in, they’re not here in the building, but if you see someone like me who feels like it might be a good idea for you to see a counselor and you’re open to that, then we can call that person on a call to come in and see you if you need that.”