SHS Doctor Shortage Leads To Longer Appointment Wait Times


A chart of the staff at Student Health Services
Graphic by Dominic Frempong

Student Health Services currently has just two physicians on staff and no director, leading to longer appointment wait times for some students.

In March 2017, former director Dr. Jenny Ho left SHS to pursue other professional opportunities. Another staff physician, Dr. Nayan Shah, replaced her in fall 2017, but he has also since left, according to Denise Hayes, The Claremont Colleges’ vice president for student affairs.

When Jessica Hjelle SC ’21 went to SHS earlier this semester to check on issues with her lungs, she ended up staying for more than two hours while waiting for a doctor.

“When I tried making an appointment online, it said they were completely booked for the week, so I just did a walk-in,” Hjelle wrote in an email to TSL. “I waited about 15 minutes to see the nurse and then about 50 minutes to see the actual doctor.”

Yurie Heard PO ’20, who had the flu in late January, said she struggled to get a SHS appointment because it was fully booked.

“I wanted to be seen [by SHS] while my symptoms were peaking so I could get the [medication] that I needed,” she said. However, by the time she got the appointment a week later, she had already missed a full week of classes and the worst of her symptoms had passed.

The wait time for non-urgent visits such as physicals is now six to seven days, up from the norm of two to three days. However, Hayes expects the situation to improve after a director is hired, and SHS has implemented some interim programs.

“We have been meeting the needs of our students by using our on-staff physicians and our three nurse practitioners,” Hayes wrote. “We have also brought in well-qualified physicians to work on a temporary basis.”

This temporary measure has allowed SHS to continue to offer same-day appointments for urgent problems. If no appointments are available, students are assessed by the nursing staff. Student with non-urgent matters are offered an appointment within a few days or referred to a local urgent care center.

Wait times for diagnostic tests do not appear be affected by the lack of a director, however. These types of visits generally only require a medical staffer such as a nurse or medical technician, not a physician.

Not all students have experienced issues. Not all students have experienced issues. Lena Pawlek HM ’21 went to SHS twice for tuberculosis testing and only had to wait five to 10 minutes, she wrote in an email to TSL. Mikayla Chang SC ’20 said she said she was able to schedule a same-day appointment when she needed her blood drawn.

SHS is in the process of hiring a fourth nurse practitioner and a director, who will be a licensed physician.

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