A guest blog from Claire Margerison, final year English student at University of Lincoln
Starting university can be daunting enough, but when you’re armed with enough medication to last you a month and a health centre registration form, it can be even more intimidating.
Living on my own, beginning my degree, and managing not to burn my pasta were challenges enough without having to deal with medical things as well. However, the teams of health professionals at your university are there to help and support you and you should take advantage of that.
Register On Arrival
The information provided in freshers’ week should guide you through how to register with your campus doctors (or at the nearest surgery), but if not speak to someone from student services and they will point you in the right direction. Registering is quick and easy and will allow your new surgery to access your medical records. This means you can then make an appointment to see your new nurse practitioner or GP.
Who Do I See?
Many campus surgeries employ a team of nurses and doctors ranging from practice nurses to GPs, and it is important to remember that for routine matters a nurse practitioner may be able to provide the support you require if there is a long wait for a doctor’s appointment . Your first appointment may be with one of the practice nurses, or the nurse practitioners rather than a GP. At home you may be used to seeing the same doctor who knows you and knows your problems, so this can initially be quite overwhelming. However, these health professionals are well versed in speaking with students and are ultimately there to provide you with care.
This person will be able to help you sort out your medication or any other medical support you need whilst you are at university.
Personally, it took me a year to meet the nurse practitioner who would become my regular nurse at my local surgery and I’ve been seeing her regularly since then.
When you have settled into your new home, it may be worth seeing if your health centre is able to assign a particular health professional to your records. This means each time you go they are aware of your situation and you don’t have to re-explain things. Some places may not be able to offer this but you should be able to request to see a particular person when booking appointments.
You may also have consultants in other parts of the country and one of the great things about the way medical records work now is that they are all online. When you see a consultant in Birmingham, the letter they send to your GP at university is accessible by any of the health professionals you see in that surgery, so everyone can be kept updated.
If you are at home for summer you can register as a temporary resident back at your local surgery so you can continue to receive care. When doing this, you can request for your records to be shared between the surgeries so all parties involved can be kept updated. This makes it easier when you go back to university in September ready for your next year.
If you require medication, have a look around your new city and suss out the closest and most convenient pharmacy to you. You can always do this online if that is easier too; a lot of places will even have online reviews to help you make your choice.
Personally, I chose a small pharmacy by where I lived in first year.
Even though it was a bit more of a walk in my final two years, I felt I had more of a personal service there and it was never busy when I went. Your pharmacy is as important as your doctors because they will be where you visit to collect medication, and you can often get over-the-counter advice about any other health issues you may have.
Most universities have fantastic pastoral care provision.
Throughout my degree I have had a Learning Plan in place, which I agreed at the beginning of my degree.
This meant that, with my permission, my tutors were aware of my condition and took this into account when marking my assignments. For example, if I needed to apply for an extension. It’s also handy if you then have to go elsewhere for any appointments, or your health worsens and you cannot attend university. I personally also contacted my year leaders each year and asked them to make my tutors aware of my condition. This isn’t mandatory but I have found it to be helpful when my health has not been great and meant I didn’t have to explain myself if I had to take time off, or go home for appointments.
It can be daunting starting university, especially if you have a medical condition. However, there are people there to support and care for you. If you would like to find more information about registering at a GP practice, the NHS has a very handy article here.
* Image shows an actress not Claire.