Boettcher Health Center has long been the first stop for Colorado College students in need of medical assistance overnight. Caring for students confronting a wide range of medical issues, the convenience of Boettcher’s on-campus location is a significant asset for the college’s students at times when they require help the most.
Recently, the college has significantly reduced Boettcher’s usefulness for students by choosing to eliminate overnight services as they extend daytime hours for nurse practitioners at the center.
While extending the availability of nurse practitioners during the day should alleviate congestion—directly benefitting students—the college’s decision to do so at the expense of overnight services reflects a misinterpretation of the immediate health needs of the student body and does not adequately consider student behavior around alcohol poisoning.
In an explanation of the decision to students, Senior Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life John Lauer wrote that, “Given the excellent emergency health care services within close proximity of the college (two emergency rooms located less than two miles from the college) and limitations and expense of overnight services that were previously offered at Boettcher, the college made the decision to end overnight operations.”
Certainly, the college is correct in their assessment that the top-rate emergency services nearby our campus can provide students with a level of care that Boettcher cannot. In the past, serious cases of alcohol poisoning have been directed to Penrose Hospital, and it seems as if the school now imagines that anyone who has consumed enough alcohol to require a medical assessment of their condition can benefit from these same services.
We should hope that even before the school’s recent decision, students and staff members had reasonable enough judgment to know when to call an ambulance. But as many students at this college likely know, situations of potential alcohol poisoning rarely appear as black and white.
Particularly in situations where most or all members of the group have been drinking, hesitation to get help for a friend is common for a variety of reasons. Calling an ambulance may appear a drastic step when one is unsure of whether or not a friend truly needs help. If the situation appears ambiguous, some individuals worry about the backlash of putting their friend through a hospital experience when they could be okay without it. Underage students who are unaware of the specifics of Colorado’s medical amnesty laws may worry about legal consequences. If students did not question the necessity of getting help, as the school’s new policy suggests is the case, many college students nationwide would not die due to alcohol poisoning.
Taking a peer to the friendly student health center in situations where a friend’s condition is uncertain presents a much less intimidating option to get professional assistance. In cases where students were unsure of what to do, Boettcher’s convenient location within walking distance of all the major dorms and student houses made it an easy place to get a sober and well-informed opinion on a friend’s condition.
For this reason, Boettcher Health Center should remain open at night. The comfort level of students in dealing with a college-affiliated establishment and the extreme convenience of its location make Boettcher a massive asset for students facing difficult decisions about friends who may need help due to alcohol consumption.
Should the college maintain that such a schedule does not effectively use the school’s resources to promote student health and safety, they must engage in a greater deal of student outreach around the issue of alcohol poisoning. Without the safety net of Boettcher available, the school should better inform students of their medical options when faced with a friend who has had too much to drink.
Overnight services at Boettcher served a role in responding to alcohol poisoning on this campus, and the student body deserves an explanation for how best to deal with alcohol poisoning without Boettcher. This will be a necessary part of mitigating potentially serious issues with the policy change.
While Mr. Lauer’s email to the student body helpfully informs students that two emergency rooms are within two miles of campus, it does not make clear how the administration expects students to get to these locations. Must students provide their own transportation any time that they require medical assistance at night? Will campus safety shuttle students in need of urgent medical attention to these hospitals or must students call an ambulance?
Answers to these sorts of questions would demonstrate that the administration understands the negative effects of the decision to end overnight services at Boettcher and remains committed to providing students with assistance during medical emergencies regardless of the time of day.
Boettcher is an excellent asset for Colorado College students in need of help, and while I am sure that the decision to eliminate overnight services followed a thorough review of any and all contingencies, I stand with those members of the student body concerned about losing such a valuable resource in confronting difficult medical situations around alcohol.