Student Health and Wellness Center Receives Reaccreditation
This spring, staff and leadership at the UTEP Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC) is celebrating good news – reaccreditation status by the Accrediting Association for Ambulatory Health Care.
The SHWC, which serves all students on campus and which is administratively housed in the UTEP College of Health Sciences, includes office personnel and an array of healthcare providers: a part-time MD who serves as the center’s medical director, a counselor, a part-time nurse practitioner, a full-time RN and a full-time certified medical assistant.
In preparation for the reaccreditation review, SHWC staff met weekly for about two months before the team’s February 2021 visit, which ultimately yielded a 59-page report covering topics such as patient rights and responsibilities; governance; quality management and improvement; administration; quality of clinical records; infection prevention; control and safety; facilities and environment; and pathology and medical lab services. While the team discussed seemingly minor details including the type of cleaner used on the center’s floors and how often fire drills are conducted, one of the most critical topics under review was quality of care – something that the SHWC does not take lightly.
“Every year, our nurse practitioners and medical doctor are credentialed. Our RNs have to renew their licenses annually,” said David Porras, Jr., SHWC business manager. “Dr. Lam, our part-time MD and medical director, is specialized in infection control. We routinely perform mock scenarios regarding heart attacks and other medical emergencies, and we are required to have a plan in place should any of the practitioners become incapacitated during a medical procedure. All of these things contribute to the high level of quality of care the center is able to provide.”
Porras, Jr. mentioned that the SHWC has remained open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic – one of only a few facilities on campus that has done so – and students should continue to feel safe accessing services.
“We want to ensure that students in need of service are not denied the opportunity to be seen,” he said. “Throughout the pandemic, the staff has consistently followed CDC guidelines, including only seeing students by appointment, taking their temperatures upon arrival, and ensuring that no more than two students are in the waiting room at any given point in time. Additionally, medical staff use personal protective equipment (PPE), including N-95 masks, during visits.”
Leticia Paez, the executive associate dean of the College of Health Sciences, who also serves as the administrative director for the SHWC, said that it is important for students to understand the serious nature of the reaccreditation process and the accrediting body’s final decision. Essentially, the positive outcome of the process reflects a level of quality of care at the SHWC in which students should feel comfortable putting their health and lives in the hands of practitioners.
“Receiving full accreditation is an indication of the highest level of services provided at the Student Health and Wellness Center,” said Paez. “Our excellent and exceptional team of certified healthcare professionals’ mission is to continue serving the health and wellness needs of all UTEP students.”
Porras, Jr. said many students are confused by the center’s purpose, believing it to be similar to the nurses’ offices they encountered during their time in elementary, middle and high school.
“Student health care is unique; the average age of patients is 21. We have to tell them that this isn’t the place to come get a splinter removed; you see a professional practitioner just like any other doctor’s office,” he said. “Once students come into the clinic, they are our patients and we provide the best quality of care.”
Students are exposed to various marketing initiatives to increase understanding about the center, including University 1301’s Freshmen Fridays, where students are brought to the center and encouraged to ask healthcare-related questions. The SHWC’s practitioners provide an array of services, including STD testing and compliance testing for students beginning clinical rotations in healthcare facilities, mental health counseling, nutrition education, primary care services, vaccinations, and other services as appropriate.
The SHWC is physically located in the Union Building East, Ste. 100. To schedule an appointment, or for further information, please call 747-5624 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.