As confirmed cases of COVID-19 near 1 million worldwide and are now over 210,000 in the United States, the world is facing a new normal. Social distancing has changed the way we interact. Only essential businesses remain open. An unprecedented number of employees are now working from home. And colleges and universities across the country have been forced to embrace technology, as many higher education institutions shift to online learning for at least the remainder of the semester.
To date, over 3,200 higher education institutions have been impacted by COVID-19, which translates to over 22 million students nationwide affected in some way. Now, many students are unsure about the future of their education, and are unable to receive the on-campus medical and mental support they need. In fact, a recent survey found that only 21% of college students feel that their lives have not been dramatically changed, except for the shift to online course work. This means that a majority of students across the country are feeling the effects of their collegiate lives turned upside down by COVID-19.
Support for Medical Concerns
With many colleges transitioning to digital learning models, it’s critical that higher education professionals understand how to continue to support their students from afar. For some students, higher education faculty and administrators are a trusted source of information, and consequently can serve as first-line support and communication for students with questions about COVID-19. Educating students on the availability of telehealth options, campus healthcare resources and when to seek care can help mitigate uncertainty.
One way to prepare is to familiarize yourself with the symptoms and precautions related to COVID-19 from the CDC. Having a basic understanding of the virus, symptoms, how it spreads and who is at risk can help answer questions that students may have. If a student is concerned that he or she may have COVID-19, consider these questions, and refer to CDC guidelines.
- Is the student experiencing symptoms of COVID-19?
- Has the student potentially been exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus?
- Has the student been adhering to social distancing and stay-at-home guidelines?
Online screening tools, like these from the CDC and TimelyMD, can also be helpful first steps for students who are considering whether or not to speak with a medical professional about symptoms. Remind students that following preventative measures, like hand washing and social distancing, is the best way to stay safe and healthy.
If a student is concerned about his or her medical well being, encourage him or her to speak with a medical provider via telehealth to assess symptoms and determine the appropriate steps to take. If telehealth is not an option, the student should call his or her medical provider and follow these recommended steps.
Support for Mental Health
In addition to medical concerns, 75% of college students who responded to the survey previously mentioned said that they are dealing with higher levels of anxiety, depression and stress, in comparison to before COVID-19. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders are designed to protect physical well being, but as we’re seeing, these measures are having a detrimental effect on mental health.
Laura Horne, chief program officer for Active Minds, encourages students to maintain as much of a routine as possible and connect with friends and family via social media and video conferencing. For higher education professionals who are now connecting with students online instead of face-to-face, there must be a shift in the way that at-risk students are identified, and who may need mental health support.
- Is a student disengaging from class?
- Is a student missing online lectures and consistently missing deadlines?
- Is there a family situation that may be impacting a student’s mental health?
- Has a student reached out about a mental health concern in the past?
When identifying an at-risk student, be sure he or she is aware of the available campus resources, including mental health support that can be used anytime and anywhere via telehealth.
As COVID-19 continues to be a public health concern, TimelyMD is ready to support college and university campuses impacted by this pandemic. The COVID-19 Resource Guide for Higher Education provides considerations for clinics, communication and campuses. Additionally, TimelyMD’s Campus.Health is an immediate telehealth solution that enables medical and mental telehealth for students, and can be launched within 24 hours. If your campus is in need of immediate support during COVID-19, please contact us today.