Written by Tiane Davis // Graphic by Cooper Turman
Director of Student Health Services Mary Darden announced in an email Jan. 9 that students would have access to a board-certified family nurse practitioner on campus beginning this semester. Students can visit the clinic for treatment of minor illnesses and injuries.
Darden, who furthered her education at Vanderbilt University so she could have the qualifications to provide this service to students, said students can opt in at the beginning of each semester for a one-time fee of $40. Darden said she has been working on implementing those services since she became director in 2020.
“It just feels like such a great accomplishment for our whole staff,” Darden said. “It’s not just me working on it, it’s been our nurses and our front office staff too.”
Darden said students often pay more than $40 per visit to an off-campus clinic, so this new offering makes healthcare more accessible to students who may not have insurance or who come from out-of-state.
“We want easy, accessible healthcare for students,” Darden said. “We want timely access to cost-effective care and high-quality care, and I think our office really hones in on that and tries to do that for students.”
Emilee Jeffrey, a nurse in Student Health Services who has experience in urgent care, said she helped Darden with the basic structure and room setup so that the students can treat their services more like a clinic.
“I was helping her brainstorm, how to organize it, how to best meet the needs of the students,” Jeffrey said. “You want to look at who you’re going to be serving, and what are they going to be needing, and obviously everyone needs healthcare, but everyone is coming at it from a different perspective.”
Jeffrey said she is excited that Student Health Services is expanding its offerings beyond the free nurse check-ups they originally offered students. Previously, Student Health Services had to refer students to off-campus health clinics in order for them to receive more specific treatment, but the introduction of a campus nurse practitioner reduces the number of referrals they have to send.
“We feel like we have something that the students need,” Jeffrey said. “We have a service we can give them that we weren’t able to do before. So much of the things we were having to refer for, we can do right here on campus.”
Vice President of Student Life Zachary Neal, who assisted Darden in seeing the project through, said a lot of the groundwork for the project had been laid over the past couple of years until everything could be pieced together. He said Darden did the hardest parts of the work and that he helped her with details such as communication and timing.
“I’m thankful for Mary Darden and the team of nurses that work with her,” Neal said. “I never want us to take for granted the level of experience and education that we have within the professionals right here on campus, and I’m very thankful for that.”
Neal said this expansion of Student Health Services fits perfectly with the mission of the University.
“With this specific opportunity, I think it shows that the University is always going to offer the highest level of education,” Neal said. “Everything that the students have been used to will still remain. It’s just that now, there’s a higher opportunity to get some of the services taken care of just on campus.”