Niamh O'Donoghue gives the lowdown on the positives and negatives of choosing the college doctor over your local GP...

The college health centre is a place I am all too familiar with; but over the course of my college life I’m starting to make the judgement on whether the free service is actually better than visiting my own GP. Below is a list of pros and cons I have compiled on whether it is worth your while to visit your college clinic, versus making the trip home.

 PROS

Fee: The obvious reason for students is the price - which is usually free versus €45- €50. For the majority of students this is a no-brainer; but is this an adequate reason for not going to see a doctor we know and trust?

Distance: A huge percentage of students come from different parts of the country and it just not feasible to travel four hours on a bus at a cost.

Embarrassment: Although doctors will not share information about patients, there’s something cynical about visiting your own GP about your underlying syphilis; knowing your mam or dad has just been talking to them. Sometimes it gives you a bit of piece-of-mind to talk to a doctor that you don’t know, or one that you won’t have to see again.

The waiting room: In-between sneezing and coughing, it’s actually a great place to get up-to-date information on stuff that you might not feel comfortable asking. There are always lots of pamphlets available in the waiting room on topics from how to check your breasts properly to controlling your asthma attacks.

Stress: The nurses and doctors are very familiar with the physical and mental stress that goes along with being a student, so it can be calming to talk to someone who knows what you’re going through.

CONS

Time: As the service is relatively free (blood tests, blood pressure monitors etc. are usually at a cost of €10), the doctors can only allow a 20 minute slot for each student – so be quick. I was recently ushered out of my college doctor’s office in between asking for contraception because I had over-stayed my welcome.

Appointments: unless your health issue is urgent, there is normally a couple days of waiting in between making the appointment and actually seeing the doctor.

Repeat prescriptions: College doctors will usually only provide prescriptions for one month at a time, unlike a GP who will normally provide a six month prescription for contraception etc.

According to Sandra Tighe, medical director at UCD, the general consensus is that there is an increase in the number of students turning to medical facilities in college, “we have more demand then we can meet in UCD so we have urgent clinics every day to facilitate students who are ill on that day and this has helped”.

“We do not aim to replace the students own GP in UCD but they may prefer to attend here for very personal issues or for contraception”,said Tighe.

Tighe believes that there is a noticeable increase in the use of on-campus clinics due to the increase in mental health illness among students. More students are becoming aware that there is not a stigma attached to mental illnesses and that it is okay to be diagnosed and treated for such an illness.

Photo: Lynn Friedmann/Twitter