Sick students: Health Center provided false diagnoses
A visit to the campus Health Center left one student claiming that she was misdiagnosed.
After a negative experience at the center and taking to Facebook to air her grievances, senior marketing major Sara Lane found she was not alone. Several students posted on the thread that they too had received false diagnoses from the Health Center.
"I'm not going to let [the Health Center] put my life or my friends' life at risk and not have some sort of backlash," Lane said.
After spending break in Panama City, Lane returned to school Monday feeling like she had the flu and an ear infection. From previous experience, she knew what it was like for her to have an ear infection.
The same day, Lane went to visit a doctor at the campus Health Center right when it opened. After telling the doctor she felt like she had an infection, she said, the doctor tested her for strep throat and proceeded to tell her that it's just allergies and that she was fine, giving her allergy medicine.
"I've never had a problem with allergies. I didn't believe him, but it was just the feeling that I tried everything else so I might as well give it a shot," Lane said.
Later that night, she was wrapping up a work meeting when a few of her coworkers came up to her and told her she didn't look well.
Lane went to Waterford Lakes Centra Care, just minutes from campus, around 10:30 p.m. During the two hours she said she was there, the physicians tested her for strep, mono and the flu — and all came out negative.
She was diagnosed with an ear infection in both ears and an infection in her throat. Lane also had to miss two days of school because of the antibiotics she had to take.
Sophomore creative writing major Alicia Miller had a similar experience when she was having serious ear infections that she has dealt with every other month since she was born.
Miller sees a specialist and physical therapist for her ears back in her hometown of Sarasota. Living on campus without a car, her most convenient option is visiting the campus Health Center. When Miller said she was simply diagnosed with a cold, a visit to the Health Center almost led her to have episodes of vertigo — a sensation of spinning and dizziness dealing with problems in the inner ear.
She was given Claritin and Sudafed for the cold with which she was diagnosed.
"The next day, I woke up in unbearable pain. I went back and they told me I had an ear infection, but now it's a double infection," Miller said.
Miller was just one of the students who commented on Lane's Facebook post. Lane received a call the next morning from UCF's patient advocacy department.
"The role of the patient advocate is one of the systems we have in place for patients to express concerns about their care," said Mary Schmidt-Owens, associate director of Medical and Health Administration for UCF Student Health Services.
If students have any concerns or are unsatisfied with their visit, they are encouraged to speak with a patient advocate, which begins a reviewing process, she added.
"It starts a review process in our facility where patient care is assessed to ensure that proper medical treatment was given. The care and respectful treatment of our patients is our top concern," Schmidt-Owens explained.
Miller and Lane, who did not know there is a patient advocacy department, said they hope to get the word out that students have options if they are ever not happy with the diagnose and treatment they receive at the health center.
"My biggest problem is that I really didn't feel heard," Miller said. "I'm an adult. I know my body. I would like them to listen more, care more and listen to students."
Student health services spokeswoman Megan Pabian said there are multiple channels that patients can use to express any concerns about the care, including comment card boxes located in main areas of the facilities, a digital survey in the main lobby and a patient satisfaction survey, which is emailed to all patients after their visits.
Pabian said for this academic year, 4,727 patients completed the emailed survey and 95 percent stated that the overall visit was either "great" or "good."
"When patients utilize these systems to express concerns about their care, it allows us to enhance our procedures to provide the best care possible," Schmidt-Owens said.
Although the patient advocacy number is listed in the surveys as well as the contact page on the Student Health Services website, Pabian said that, in light of this situation, she plans to help add the number to other areas of the website.
Marina Guerges is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow her on Twitter at @marinaguerges or email her at MarinaG@CentralFloridaFuture.com.