When Medical Needs Meet College Life

September 23, 2019
Alicia Downs
Director of Patient Care and Education, Integrated Diabetes Services
Alicia’s diverse nursing career has given her experience with a broad range of clients and a variety of health conditions in addition to diabetes. One of her passions is advocating for the needs of her patients, whether it be in overcoming insurance restrictions, obtaining community resources, or coordinating with school systems and medical providers. Alicia is a proud graduate of the Cecil College School of Nursing and received her Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Nursing from Western Governors University. She is an active member of the American Association of Diabetes Educators and Maryland Nurses Association.

So you’ve moved in, found your classes, and the homesickness (we won’t tell anyone) has abated. But there is one connection that you still need to make: medical care! Students with diabetes can typically maintain care with their pediatric clinical practice until age 21 or graduation from college. But what happens when you are at school and you need to change your insulin dosage or prescription?  Where will you get routine labs done? Even more likely, what happens if you get sick?! Illness and changes in our diabetes world don’t wait for us to be home on break! Here are some tips for finding health care when those needs arise.

“Illness and changes in our diabetes world don't wait for us to be home on break!”

Campus Clinic

Many colleges and universities have on-campus medical clinics. Look into these services. They can range from minimal first aid and referral services to full-blown clinics with doctors available to write prescriptions. Ask whether they’d be available to address diabetes-specific needs like medication or prescription needs in a pinch! These health services also typically provide free vaccines like Meningitis and Influenza as well as free health screenings, sexual health services, and even wellness programs!


Many insurance companies are now partnering with telemedicine providers. You can download an app on your phone and do calls or video conferencing with a doctor or nurse practitioner to diagnose and treat minor health needs. These typically cost as much as your PCP office co-pay and save a ton of time!

Get referrals for local providers

Ask your doctors at home to provide you with referrals for diabetes care and primary care near school. Make a new patient appointment as soon as you can so you can get in to see them quickly if the need arises. A savvy primary care provider may even be willing to cover your diabetes needs while you are at school too!

Campus Counseling Services

Colleges and Universities provide multiple outlets for mental health services for students. Support groups, individual and group counseling services are available on most campuses and typically at no charge to students.

Pharmacy Wellness Centers

Some pharmacies have staff on hand to diagnose and treat minor illnesses. Check websites or give a call to pharmacies near you to see if these services are available and on what days and times.

Identify local services

What is the nearest hospital to campus? does it have a diabetes center? What lab does your insurance work with and where is the nearest sample collection location? Is there an urgent care center nearby where you could go for treatment of sudden illness or injury and do they draw labs or do Xrays on-site? Forewarned is forearmed; having knowledge of the resources near you when you’re healthy will greatly reduce the stress you face when you’re sick or injured.

Diabetes Support and Education

There are multiple resources for diabetes support offering remote guidance on diabetes management, from recommendations for insulin adjustments and education from sources like Integrated Diabetes Services or Steady Healthcare, to apps that include diabetes education and coaching like MySugr, Diabetes:M and others. There are lots of options available, and of course, tagging in with your local CDN Chapter for support has been shown to make a huge difference in reducing diabetes distress, and maintain improved diabetes management while achieving academically too!

The Insurance Questions

Fortunately, college students who are covered under a parent or guardian can maintain that coverage to age 26, but that does not necessarily ensure that your insurance will cover you at school! Reach out to see what providers, pharmacy services and urgent care resources are in your network, whether an HMO plan will approve out of state care while you’re in school and whether on-campus clinics are in-network providers. If you do not have insurance or will be losing insurance when you go to college, many colleges now offer group health insurance plans for students. However, it would be wise to meet with a social worker either on campus, or at a local healthcare facility to discuss your options for purchasing health care coverage as the campus plan may be higher cost or have more restrictions than other publically available options. Most full-time students meet criteria to qualify for state-subsidized health insurance programs, some may even qualify for food stamps, cash assistance or energy assistance programs depending on the situation.

“With a little preparation, you can deal with health challenges without missing a beat and continue enjoying your time learning and living your best life! ”

With a little forethought and information gathering you can make sure that being at school does not mean being cut off from the medical world. When we T1Ds are not prepared, small changes in our lives can become time-consuming, expensive, burdensome and possibly even life-threatening. With a little preparation, you can deal with health challenges without missing a beat and continue enjoying your time learning and living your best life!

Find out more about Integrated Diabetes services here.

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