Throughout my almost four years on this campus, I’ve heard stories from others and personally experienced disappointment with the University Health Center. When one of our own at the East Tennessean became sick recently, we began talking about how difficult it is to get an appointment at the center due to a lack of available times. It made us realize that there may be a serious problem with health care access on campus.

I’ve been sick several times while in school, but getting an appointment at the center has been difficult. One of these times I knew I had something seriously wrong with my lungs. I called the health clinic on a Thursday hoping for an appointment that day or the next. Instead, I was told there was an appointment the following Monday. I said I’d go somewhere else. It turned out I had bronchitis. I would have been very, very sick had I not gone to a different clinic before the weekend.

Other times, I have found better luck taking the first appointment of the day at 8 a.m., but that has been about my only option anytime I want to get checked out on campus. I’ve made a promise to myself that if I am ever truly sick like that time I got bronchitis that I would seek help at an Urgent Care-type center before I waited for the campus clinic.

That’s my personal experience, but I’ve spoken to other students over the years who have said similar things. They want to go on campus, but they can’t get an appointment in a timely manner.

The university health center is truly wonderful in practice. I’ve had great help from the staff, received excellent treatment, and – best of all – most services are free for students thanks to a fee as part of our tuition. It’s also conveniently located on campus in Nicks Hall, so students could potentially go here between classes if needed. In no way am I shaming this service.

However, a university of almost 15,000 students, which also has colleges of nursing, medicine and pharmacy, should really be able to provide better health access to students.

Does the university need to hire more staff to the health clinic? Does the clinic need to be housed somewhere new to accommodate more health professionals and sick students? I don’t know these answers, but I know students should be able to get appointments for a service they’re already paying toward.