Even as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has been upending the campus community’s lives over the past few weeks, the staff of CSUDH’s Student Health and Psychological Services have been working tirelessly to ensure that they remain open and available to those in need of help.
“We’re still here!” says Irina Gaal, chief of medical services, who has been one of the leaders of their effort to keep services running. “While some things are still a bit up in the air, we are rapidly transitioning to a tele-health model that allows us to continue to help our patients.”
The center’s psychological services have completely transitioned to a remote model. It was important to transition the services quickly, says Janie MacHarg, director of Student Health and Psychological Services. “We’re dedicated to continuing to provide the highest level of mental health care during these especially stressful times.”
The Student Health Center is located on campus, in between Welch Hall and the University Theatre. Student Health Services: (310) 243-3629. Psychological Services: (310) 243-3818. For details on services and hours, visit www.csudh.edu/shps
Most counselors are conducting sessions via Zoom, while others have been doing phone-only consultations. Students in need of psychological services can call the office and leave their contact information. “A counselor will return their call to assess their needs as soon as possible,” Gaal says.
Health services have been a bit trickier to move completely online, says Gaal. “We’re all learning about this as we go through it,” she says. “It’s completely new, uncharted territory, and we’re having to just jump in the pool rather than dip our toes in!”
Under the new system, patients who call the Health Center will be assessed by nursing staff, then routed to appropriate medical providers (physician or nurse practitioner) for remote visits, as needed. In very rare circumstances, patients will be asked to come into the office. “Some things like vaccinations or TB tests just can’t be done remotely,” says Gaal.
When patients do have to come into the office, social distancing recommendations are being followed. The doors to the office are locked, and patients call the front dsk when they arrive. They are then ushered into the office without lingering in a waiting room.
Physicians wear washable gowns, as well as shielded face masks when working with patients. After their face-to-face interaction is complete, further consultations are done remotely. Patients may be asked to go back outside the Health Center and speak with the clinician by phone.
“It’s not ideal,” says Gaal, “but it allows us to continue assisting those who need our services.” She adds that they are still in the process of breaking in the new system, and stresses the need for patience and flexibility as events unfold.
For those struggling to deal with this unprecedented crisis, Dr. Gaal quoted an ancient adage as an encouraging reminder: “This too shall pass!”