Health and Wellness Post-COVID

CHWS welcomes students back for the 2022-23 school year, with a variety of free healthcare-related products, outside of its office. Photo Credit- Emma Pellegrini

By: Emma Pellegrini

Counseling, Health and Wellness Services, or CHWS, is tucked away in a corner of the Wheelock Student Center, away from the busy diner and Diversions Cafe. The waiting room is quiet, almost peaceful, so silent that one can hear the clacking of fingers on the secretary’s keyboard and the click of putting someone on the phone on hold, reminding patients that landlines do still exist. CHWS provides a myriad of physical and psychological resources to students on campus. 

However, in recent times, CHWS has faced similar COVID-19 hurdles seen across the University. Libby Baldwin, the Medical Director at CHWS acknowledges the limitations COVID places on CHWS’ ability to focus solely on student health and wellbeing. “We had to focus on the university as a whole and give guidance around the directions that the University should be going. There are recommendations based on all things pandemic and COVID related, and so, because of that, we couldn’t do the connecting that we try to do with incoming students each year,” Baldwin commented.

Dr. Kelly Brown, CHWS Director, and psychologist spoke about the immense demand for individual services which CHWS cannot realistically supply, despite their commitment to nurturing a compassionate and personal relationship with the student body. “Say someone comes in and they say, ‘oh, I’d like to have this particular service,’ and then it’s not available. Then they feel disappointed, and they feel like, ‘well that’s not helpful, this resource, they couldn’t give me exactly what I wanted,’” said Dr. Brown. She also circled back to a point Baldwin stressed: the limitations that the COVID pandemic had on CHWS’ ability to provide services. As pandemic recovery is underfoot, students have returned to campus in a year that seems ever so slightly less in limbo.

Kendall Baldwin, a sophomore, spoke about her personal experience with CHWS for medical emergencies, prescriptions, and mental health resources. Kendell commented on how everyone who worked for CHWS was kind and friendly, but that she desired better communication between members of the CHWS team and students seeking or inquiring about services. “I find that at times, whether it is due to understaffing or other issues, such as uncommunicative breaks, or just people who are away from phones, it’s been pretty hard to reach them to schedule appointments,” she said. 

While some students may be frustrated by the ongoing effects COVID has on their ability to seek on-campus care, the CHWS team has not been deterred from working to be a steady and compassionate resource for students on and off campus. “One of the things that we really are trying to re-establish is a way to connect with the student body outside of the walls of CHWS because we know that it can be really intimidating and challenging and there might be a stigma associated with seeking care,” Libby Baldwin said. 

Now, CHWS is putting on outreach events, like Wellness Wednesdays, to ensure that students can approach and use on-campus health resources without judgment. While the pandemic has caused uncertainty and limited the availability of valuable time and resources, the CHWS team hopes that by addressing the varying concerns of students, it can continue to evolve and grow in its ability to meet the needs of students as both the University and the world recover from unprecedented circumstances.