Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Student’s Guide to Medical Support

Source: doodle and hoob

Almost everyone I know at the moment has a case of the sniffles or a sore throat, myself included. Aside from the usual maladies that arise with the change of season, it's getting to that point of the academic year where students are simply burning out. Long nights studying, several months on a poor diet consisting largely of Mi Goreng noodles, and more slabs of alcohol than you would willingly admit to having consumed, it all starts to add up, and your immune system gets hit hard. Sometimes, the cure is to curl up on the couch in your trackies and a blanket, chow down on some comfort food, drink hot chocolate and devour a book or some movies. But when your body crashes out on you, it's important to know how to get in contact with the right people…

Your Uni Health Service
Most universities have a student health service, usually consisting of a couple of full-time nurses, and a visiting doctor. These services are great, as you can duck in between lectures, and the staff tend to be very conscious of the problems facing uni students, not to mention university procedures if you require time off to recover. Remember to take your Medicare card, as they will usually bulk bill your visit, but be aware that you may face out of pocket expenses for things like inoculations, blood tests and procedures. The one main problem with on campus doctors is that the appointments can fill up weeks in advance, but if this is the case, you should be able to ask them if they can recommend another nearby doctor.

Bulk Billing Clinics
Outside of on-campus services, bulk billing clinics are the next best things for the sick student. They usually have a number of doctors on duty at any one time, meaning they can move through more patients in a shorter space of time than smaller private practices, and the best bit is it's free if you have your Medicare card! You don't normally have to have an appointment, but from experience, it can be a good idea to make one, in case you suddenly find yourself on the end of a 2 hour wait. Clinics are your best bet if you need to get prescriptions renewed, doctors certificates issued, or have issues you don't really want to discuss with your usual doctor. Just be aware that you may not always get the same doctor, meaning you'll have to be prepared to give someone new the low-down on your history every visit, because whilst files are usually shared at these clinics, the doc doesn't know you, and will ask questions accordingly. These places can also be quite drug happy, i.e. will prescribe something just to shut you up. If you're not sure why they're giving you something, or if it is the right treatment for you, don't be afraid to speak up and voice your concerns. Get them to explain exactly what it is, and why they're providing you with the script. If you're still not comfortable, seek a second opinion.

Your trip to the doctor won't always end with a pharmacological solution, but if it does, you'll need to get your script filled, preferably sooner rather than later. It pays to have a look around at different pharmacies, as the one next door to the doctor can also be the most expensive! If you have a Health Care Card or concession, you can get some medicines at a reduced price, which is always appreciated by the bank account. If your prescription allows for you to get a generic brand, seriously consider doing so. Generics are exactly the same drug, in the same delivery format, but sold at a lower price. Same is true for over the counter drugs, such as paracetamol or antihistamine. A company has a monopoly over the production of a drug for the life of its patent, at which time it can be picked up by other companies, increasing competition for market share, and driving prices down, meaning win for the consumer! Here endeth the economics lesson.

Ambulance Cover
Nobody thinks they're going to have an accident, but if you do, the last thing you want to be worrying about is a $2000 bill from the Ambulance service for the ride they gave you to hospital. In my first week at university, everyone in our course was advised to get ambulance cover 'just in case'. Considering the dangers involved with science, with all its chemicals, glassware, fire and explosive hazards, etc, it's probably not surprising that I took that advice on board, and I'm very glad I did. My situation wasn't an accident in the lab, a broken leg at football, or getting into a fight while in town one night (all of which I have witnessed). I had an asthma attack at 2 o'clock in the morning, in the middle of uni break while no one was around, and had no way to get to hospital. If I hadn't had Ambulance membership, that ride could have cost me a huge amount of money, and not having the ride could have cost me my life. In my opinion, $75 a year is a small price to pay for knowing if I have an accident, my family isn't going to get hit with a huge bill while I'm still recovering. Some private health care funds have ambulance cover built in to them, and some states have a free public service, so check your situation before signing up!

Don't leave it too late
If you've been off colour for a few days, consider going to the doctor. Sometimes they can give you a certificate for a few days to rest and recover, or even make sure it's not something more than it looks. Always think in advance, especially if you're fluey and have assignments coming up. If you ever have persistent pain, numbness or tingling in your limbs, develop problems with your speech or sight, have recurring headaches or experience chest pains, ALWAYS see a doctor as soon as possible. Pay attention to your body, rest, and keep up your fluids and vitamins, because prevention and early intervention are always better than living through a full-blown illness.

Finally, the disclaimerNEVER use this post against or in lieu of professional medical advice. Always use your common sense, and only follow advice you feel comfortable with. If you're not comfortable with the advice, seek a second opinion, or a third. If the problem isn't going away, persist until you get answers!

Love, Neysa xo

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