Students speak out on decreased Welty Health Center hours

Isabella Hunter, Campus Life Reporter

Whitman previously ranked in the Princeton Review as having the second-best college health center in the nation, due in part to its long hours. The Welty Health Center used to be open to students 24/7 (with the exception of student breaks) and garnered a positive reputation because of its accessibility.

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Welty has been forced to greatly reduce their hours, according to its long-standing director and RN, Claudia Ness. 

When the pandemic struck and the college went online, we were reduced to Monday through Friday business hours due to the lack of students on campus. It has stayed a weekday clinic since then due to budgetary concerns,” Ness said.

Unfortunately for students, this has meant that they can’t reliably access healthcare when they need it. Up until two weeks ago, Welty’s physicians were only available by appointment, three days a week, from 8-10 a.m., but according to Ness, the medical providers are now available five mornings a week (two hours a day), and the psychiatric nurse practitioner is available two days a week. Ness also admitted that while over the past 12 years they tried to make the 24/7 schedule work, these clinics were not well attended and difficult to staff.

Sophomore Hannah Hagler expressed some concern over Welty’s accessibility. 

“If you do actually need to see a doctor, they are only available in the mornings on certain days which is really difficult if you actually have some kind of sickness and their hours are really limited in general,” Hagler said. “I’m pretty sure they close at like four or five, which can be really difficult if you’re having problems because a lot of times that’s when students are in classes.” 

Overall, Welty has received mixed reviews from the community. First-year River Woodruff explained that he had to wake up early the morning after getting a concussion just to get a diagnosis, which can be really detrimental to the recovery process.

After getting diagnosed with a concussion, Woodruff was sent on his way with a note to excuse his absences.

“They helped me, but they didn’t give me any sort of plan for getting back, or real limits like ‘to-dos’, ‘not to-dos’ or processes for how I should behave or treat a concussion, and it was just a very cursory, not in-depth treatment session,” Woodruff said.

Hagler praised the health center as a more financially accessible alternative to hospital evaluations but also addressed the health center’s critical need for more staffing, stating that while the folks who work there are friendly, there just needs to be more of them. Because there’s only one nurse and one doctor on staff at any given time, it is difficult to effectively support Whitman’s entire student body.

“I’ve had both positive and negative experiences with the health center,” Hagler said. “On the positive end they did a really great job providing flu shots for students, and they are also a great resource if you just need a quick visit for something that doesn’t cost a lot.”

It’s hard to balance the needs of students and staff with a tightening budget, but it is also important to reflect on how the service is performing overall and in what ways it could be improved in the future.