Health Services changes availability


Office manager Judy Norris, left, and registered nurse Beth Barnes, right, both work in the Health Services office. After Barnes’ retirement, the office will no longer have Sunday hours available. Photo by Chloe Sonnier, staff photographer.

Sheryl Tynes, vice president for student life, sent out an email to Trinity students announcing that Health Services will be closed on Sundays, effective Jan. 14, 2018.

The new health services hours will be from 8 a.m.–8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. on Fridays. Health Services currently does not hold hours on Saturdays. Gary Neal, director of counseling and health services, explained the reasons for the change in hours.

“Beth Barnes, [registered nurse], will be retiring in the first week of January,” Neal wrote in an email interview. “​Her position is 30 hours a week with six of those hours on Sundays. We have been considering closing on Sundays for a while, but Ms. Barnes’ retirement prompted us to do so now. Patient volume on Sunday has been light, averaging only seven patients per Sunday.”

The Associated Colleges of the South (ACS), a consortium of schools of which Trinity is a member, also played a part in the decision.

“We have benchmarked our hours and services against those of health services at the other 14 schools in the Associated Colleges of the South,” Neal wrote. “Only one other ACS school, Washington and Lee University, has weekend hours. The remainder are open Monday through Friday.”

Barnes has worked with Trinity since 2001. Her retirement will create an open registered nurse (RN) position.

“We have begun a search to hire a new nurse to fill that position,” Neal wrote. “In doing so, we needed to establish the work schedule for that position.  We know that a Monday through Friday position will be easier to fill than one which included Sunday hours.  And given that the demand for RNs is very strong we wanted to maximize our chances of hiring an experienced, well-qualified nurse. Shifting the Sunday work hours of this nurse to ​Monday–Friday reinforces our staffing at times of heavier demand.”

At a Student Government Association (SGA) meeting a couple of weeks ago, David Tuttle, dean of students, addressed the possibility of the change in hours and asked for feedback from SGA before the official decision was made.

“Dean Tuttle just came and presented to us really informally, after the university had been considering whether to cut the hours,” said Nick Santulli, senior political science major and SGA president. He basically just asked for feedback and guidance. He said that the university was having trouble finding a new nurse to replace the one who just left because of the Sunday hours, and we discussed the options available.”

SGA did not have any objections to the new hours, but did provide some constructive feedback and were told that the administration would work to implement these suggestions.

“We think they should do a better job of connecting students with urgent care clinics nearby and make information more available as to what urgent care clinics accept what insurance,” Santulli said. “We largely understood the proposal because it is getting in the way of them finding a new person. Most other schools don’t offer the weekend hours, especially those in urban settings with lots of urgent care clinics nearby.”

David Clark, sophomore math and French double major, finds the changes in Health Services’ hours to be reasonable.

“I think that the change in Health Services’ hours makes perfect sense, and I don’t believe that it will have that drastic of an impact on the student body as a whole,” Clark said. “If so few people have gone on Sundays, and if the nurse who usually works Sundays is retiring, then why not cancel Sunday hours? If someone has a truly urgent medical situation, there are plenty of urgent care alternatives. The fact that several other schools already have such a policy indicates that it can be a successful one.”

If students have an emergency when Health Services is closed, they should contact Trinity University Police Department at (210) 999-7000. Students can also view a list of nearby urgent care and hospital locations on the Health Services webpage, under frequently asked questions.