The Heart of Health Services

By Regan Gubera, Regular Content Creator

Photos from Phoebe McCutcheon, Head of Photography and Design

Many times through the semester, in zombie-mode after a class, I will meander behind the library to Health Services in search of cough drops, allergy medicine, or a COVID-19 test. In this zombie mode, I failed to appreciate the huge heart and hard work of the Health Services faculty as well as the extent of resources they have to offer. Interviewing the staff and seeking to understand what McKendree Health Services is about changed my perspective. 

I had the pleasure of interviewing Beth Allan, Nurse Practitioner and Director of Health and Counseling Services, and Lesa Auten, a Certified Medical Assistant. As I went in for the interview, I looked around with more observant eyes than usual. The waiting room’s brightly painted walls, wood floors, comfy sofas, decorations, and low ceilings give a cozy feeling, capable of soothing nerves. The other rooms give off a feeling of warmth mixed with professionalism, reflecting the personalities of Beth, Lesa, and the rest of the Health Services staff that I met.

In Beth’s office, I was greeted by Beth, Lisa, and Obi-Wan (as in, Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars), a twelve-week-old bernedoodle. Beth mentioned how he was the start of bringing back emotional support animals to Health Services. Upon learning about Obi-Wan, I also came to understand that many programs Health Services used to do have been put on hold because of busy schedules since the start of the pandemic. The nutrition education program and coordinating with RAs on health events are some examples of programs put on hold. There are a few programs they have been able to continue, however; free flu shots are still available to undergraduate students, and their “Spooky Sex” event is happening in PAC on Oct. 29. This is an educational program on STIs. 

It was fascinating to learn how lucky we are to have a service so similar to a doctor’s office; the beautiful difference is that Health Services is much more convenient. Sick visits, prescriptions for illnesses, strep screens, physicals, Depo-Provera shots, STI, tuberculosis and pregnancy tests, blood drawing for tests, and continuation of care is just a short walk away from where we eat, sleep, and study. 

Beth elaborated on what continuation of care is: “If someone is on a depression med, let’s say, I would assess them and make sure it is obviously okay, and then we can prescribe.” They also assess and prescribe after the counseling department sends people over. The alternative is having to make an appointment and go back to your hometown doctor to have prescriptions made. The amount of time before getting on a prescription might be dangerous for those with severe illnesses, making this campus service highly valuable and convenient. Furthermore, these stalwart women do minor laceration repairs on the regular! Lesa mentioned doing two in the past couple weeks. 

After learning about all the services they offered, I wanted to know how Beth and Lesa came to McKendree. Beth, since the fifth grade, knew she wanted to go into nursing because she “liked to care for people and to make people feel better.” Lesa affirmed that she also knew from a young age that she wanted to go into health and wellness for the same reasons. Beth’s nursing journey started in a hospital, but changed after her four-year-old asked her if she “was going to see him anymore,” to which she responded by going into school health, where the hours are more agreeable. She has found she “love[s] to work with [our] age group.”

“[It’s] interesting, to say the least, because sometimes, some of your age group thinks they know more than anyone else,” says Beth. “We still make sure they are taken care of. Sometimes we’re their mom, sometimes we’re their doctor, sometimes we’re their counselors, and sometimes we do their laundry.” I laughed out loud upon learning someone has managed to have one of our lovely nurses take on the responsibility of their laundry. 

Lesa concluded the interview beautifully by saying, “[Our goal is to make sure you] get the best college experience by staying healthy and well by getting your mind, body, and souls to work properly, because if one aspect is broken, nothing will work. We try to make sure you are well-rounded and healthy, not just physically healthy.”

I felt an immense sense of gratitude for Health Services upon leaving the interview. Health Services deals with busy schedules, organizing programs, and egotistical students on the regular. My heart goes out to them as they pour their hearts out for us. 

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