For Pamela Dubyak, an assistant professor of health psychology at Penn State, she has seen students often go to the emergency room – at Mount Nittany Medical Center – for illnesses or problems that could easily be solved in a general practitioner’s office.
“People will sometimes go to the emergency room instead of primary care because they don’t have the money to pay for the service,” Dubyak said. “It can also be a situation where they’ve waited too long, and now the condition needs immediate attention.”
However, student Reonna Giosa said there were several reasons for choosing to go to the emergency room – such as students being away from their primary carers.
“Students are far from home,” said Giosa (junior human development and family studies). “They might think it’s more serious than it is and just go to the ER to be safe.”
Giosa said her “solution” was to find a doctor at Mount Nittany Medical Center, but she knows “not everyone has that option.”
Additionally, Giosa also said that she hasn’t personally attended any of the urgent care in the area, but would recommend it to a student who doesn’t know what medical attention he needs.
At State College, there are two primary urgent care centers – MedExpress and Geisinger ConvenientCare State College.
At these locations, students can be quickly treated for common illnesses and injuries, according to their websites.
For community members who are struggling financially or for those who are uninsured, Center Volunteers in Medicine provides comprehensive and completely free care to the State College community, according to Cheryl White.
White, the executive director of CVIM, said that not only does CVIM provide medical services, but it also provides employment services.
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“At CVIM, we are different because of our mission,” White said. “We see people you meet every day and help them stay healthy and working”
Additionally, White said CVIM does not see a “huge” student population.
“Penn State students are required to have insurance when enrolling in college,” White said. “We don’t see a lot of students, but we are certainly available to them if services are needed.”
On campus, students have access to university health services or can travel to Mount Nittany for long-term treatment.
“[UHS] can be compared to a doctor’s office at home,” said Valerie Fulton, an infectious disease nurse at UHS.
Fulton said UHS also offers other services, such as “immunizations, simple lacerations, male and female health visits, lab tests, case management, sick visits, and physical examinations”.
“At UHS, we are unique because our clinicians and nurses are highly trained and knowledgeable about the most up-to-date information about Penn State’s student population,” Fulton said.
Fulton said there are several key differences between UHS and Mount Nittany’s services.
“Mount Nittany Medical Center is a hospital,” Fulton said. “[It] can take care of any emergency and also take care of students who need surgery or need medical attention in the hospital.
Mount Nittany is also open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Fulton said.
For Keller Kontir, she had experience with these two medical institutions as a student.
“I’ve been to UHS a handful of times for different things,” Kontir (senior vet studies) said. “I have a lot of medical issues, and at UHS they actually listened and considered all of my past issues.”
Kontir said she would “definitely” return to UHS.
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On the other hand, Kontir said she didn’t have a “good experience” at Mount Nittany Medical Center and would “not recommend it.”
“They wait longer, aren’t very attentive to patients, and tend to leave patients with band-aid solutions to their problems,” Kontir said. “I felt a panicked energy from the staff when I was there.”
Kontir described his experience in the emergency room at Mount Nittany Medical Center as “freakish.”
“I went to the emergency room twice,” Kontir said. “During one of my visits, they injected me with morphine just so that I would come back a day later with more severe symptoms.”
For Kontir, as a Penn State student, she said her care was “very rushed.”
“The staff was very nice but just wanted to get rid of every patient as soon as possible,” Kontir said.
According to a 2021 Mount Nittany Medical Center press release, the hospital has been recognized for “excellence in care” globally.
“With a focus on delivering the highest quality, safe, compassionate care for every patient, every time, Mount Nittany Health is proud to be recognized nationally with the highest honors in clinical care, patient safety and overall performance across the healthcare system,” Mount Nittany said in a statement.
Kathleen Rhine, CEO of Mount Nittany Medical Center, also commented in the statement.
“At Mount Nittany, community members can count on exceptional care every day,” said Rhine. “The recognition we get from external evaluators are just a few of the accomplishments this remarkable team can be proud of.”
However, Kontir said she probably wouldn’t return to Mount Nittany if possible.
“UHS is just more adept at student services and student needs here at Penn State.”
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