Our work in college health seems largely focused around helping our students develop skills to manage challenges that arise, navigate transitions, and find purpose and meaning.
As fall arrives we are welcoming a new group of students to campus and helping them find their way.
This past year I have had some professional and personal transitions of my own. Charley Bradley and Jack Turco, who together have about 60 years of college health experience and have been important role models and mentors for me, retired. Even though we have put together a great leadership team here, I found myself missing Charley and Jack. Their daily presence provided a wealth of experience, historical memory, and readily available consultation. Plus, they both have a great sense of humor! Like our students, I found myself asking, “What is most important to me? Where do I want to focus my time and energy? Are there opportunities for me to be more proactive in my work and less reactive? What has caught my interest the most are Customer Service and Job Satisfaction for Staff. You can’t have one without the other. If staff feel valued, respected, and that they make a difference, then customer service is going to be better.
Even when we do our best job there will be times when students, their families, or the college community will be unhappy. For good reasons – we require that students have standard vaccines, we require that they have health insurance that works locally, we determine that the medical needs of some students exceed what we are able to provide in a college setting, we determine that not everyone needs antibiotics, and we bill for some services.
While we all dread those angry phone calls and letters to our office or to the college president, we have found that often (not always) people appreciate being heard and having their concern reviewed. We often learn ways that we can make our communication more clear and when we have made a mistake we try to find a way to address it for the student/family. We are working to change the way we approach these interactions; from dread and defensiveness to opportunity to engage, educate, and improve how we do things. In the past 6 months these interactions have improved – how departments across campus communicate about student status, the clarity of information that we give to students and on our website, communication between departments in the Health Service, on call procedures to insure timely communication of information.
Even when we do things well, our students and families will help us find ways to do them better!
The saying that “the only thing that is constant is change” appears to be true. In my personal life my wife and I are on day 8 as empty nesters. The house is quiet, the washer/dryer and dishes aren’t run as frequently, and the grocery bill is down. Although we miss the kids, we get to enjoy dinner together every night, which has been very nice.
Here’s to each of us finding meaning and navigating transitions in the coming year.
Director, Dartmouth College Health Service