NMU centered on wellbeing
MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University’s commitment to providing a comprehensive approach to wellness that revolves around intentional care for the whole person has taken a tangible step forward with the newly constructed WellBeing Center. The $6.5 million, 13,500-square-foot facility housing both the NMU Health Center and Counseling and Consultation Services was dedicated on Monday.
Students will benefit from the centralized location near The Woods housing complex and Northern Lights Dining, and across the street from campus apartments. Patients are likely to appreciate some of the new practical features at the Health Center, according to Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick, NMU medical director.
“For years, they’ve been requesting a drive-thru pharmacy,” he said. “It wasn’t feasible at the former location, so it is nice to be able to incorporate that. We also have an expanded parking lot just off Lincoln Avenue that offers noticeably more than the six spaces we had at Gries Hall.
“We built a procedure room for patients with lacerations or other injuries. It has nice lighting and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) features such as an exam table that can accommodate larger patients and powers down to 18 inches so you can easily move a patient from a wheelchair to the table. We do a lot of nursing functions with immunizations, so we also have a room dedicated to that purpose.”
Because the new Health Center was designed in the midst of the pandemic, when the Gries Hall lab had to move to a different floor so individuals could be tested for COVID-19 without potentially exposing others, an enhanced lab factored prominently into the new facility’s design.
“We’re definitely set up well for the next pandemic, if we should have one,” said Maddie Dodge, clinical lab tech. “There is a separate entry door so people can come in for a blood draw and leave out the back without having to pass through the clinic. We also have a clean room and laminar flow hood that use HEPA (high-efficiency particulate-absorbing) filters to capture airborne particles and keep them from spreading. There is a lot more space to function in with increased storage, and being on the same level as the clinic allows us to function more efficiently.”
One significant benefit that the campus community may not be aware of is that the onsite lab can do testing ordered by off-campus physicians. The testing is free for faculty and staff with NMU insurance.
Medical Office Manager Robin Aho showed a central nurse’s station surrounded by four exam rooms on each side, each of which includes new wall-mounted diagnostic tools and sinks. There is also a conference room for Health Center staff meetings and training.
Kirkpatrick said the Health Center is staffed at its highest level since he joined NMU eight years ago. He and another physician are joined by a nurse practitioner. With the university’s increased emphasis on mental health, he was also able to hire a new psychiatry physician assistant.
The professional staff members at Counseling and Consultation Services across the hall also address students’ mental health-related concerns.
“We have online scheduling for phone screening appointments and daily walk-ins,” said Angie Stebbins, CCS department head. “We offer individual, group and consultation services to NMU students. The office provides a telehealth option for students who commute or find it easier to attend therapy sessions virtually. Additionally, students who have a provider at home and want to continue seeing them have the ability to utilize our confidential telehealth office located within CCS.”
Emotional crisis appointments are available daily for students who feel an urgent need for support. The CCS office is now open from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.
“I am so thrilled to have these critical physical and mental health services under one roof, and in a location that is visible and accessible to a wide array of members of our community,” said Abigail Wyche, assistant vice president for campus wellbeing. “What we’ve done here by opening this new facility shows how committed we are to living up to the principles of the Okanagan Charter. It is a major milestone along our path to more tightly weaving our net of holistic wellbeing support for our campus.
“Another major milestone met is the hiring of Emily Meier, our new case management services director who will lead our reimagined CARE Team on campus. CARE identifies, assesses and intervenes with individuals who are struggling or who demonstrate concerning or threatening behavior. Emily will be using a strengths-based, goal-focused approach to work with those who come to the attention of the CARE team, and stay connected with them as they find ways to overcome the obstacles that put them at risk.”
According to a definition from the National Association for Behavioral Intervention and Threat Assessment, whose standards NMU is using to refine the work its CARE team is doing, case managers serve in a defined, non-clinical role to holistically support students facing a variety of challenges that inhibit their success. They work parallel to the behavioral intervention team, able to assist in all three phases: gathering data, objectively assessing and deploying standardized, yet individualized interventions. They are able to broker resources and referrals while empowering the individual to advocate for themselves and their desired outcomes.