Opinions, Editorials

Self-advocacy, Awareness Needed At The Hospital

When a Boston College student arrives at a medical facility—typically St. Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Brighton—after an alcohol-related transport, he or she should not expect a highly standardized procedure to take place. If, during a routine evaluation, emergency room physicians determine that a student is past the most severe point of his or her situation and the condition is improving, he or she will be held for observation and released after a few hours or the next morning.

If a student has a high blood alcohol content (BAC), indicates that he or she has taken drugs in combination with his or her alcohol consumption, or seems to require further attention, doctors could be prompted to perform a blood test, start an IV, or give the student oxygen. Certain signs—wide pupils, a fast heart rate, or flushed skin—could be indicators of drugs being in play, and therefore additional procedures would be performed, according to Thomas Nary, director of University Health Services. The steps that doctors take, however, vary depending on the specific situation—every individual’s case is different.

Although it could be sensible to test all intoxicated students coming into the emergency room for drugs—particularly to rule out the involvement of drugs such as rohypnol ingested without the student’s knowledge—it is understandable that there could be financial or time constraints preventing this from occurring. Further, the pressure on doctors responsible for treating patients constantly arriving in the emergency room with time-sensitive injuries is a practical reason not to perform all tests immediately before evaluating the student’s condition.

Students usually, and understandably, want all potential scenarios for a trip to the emergency room laid out for them, but there is much uncertainty when it comes to individualized medical treatment, and they must trust doctors’ knowledge as they determine what treatment to pursue. While students have no way of knowing definitively what treatment they should expect to receive when transported to the hospital for alcohol-related incidents, they should be sure to understand their rights as patients and seek their medical information from the hospital upon their discharge.

After the student has been discharged from the hospital and has returned to campus, BC does not typically follow up in any way with the hospital—University Health Services is likely not even aware that an incident has occurred if a student is brought to the hospital without first being admitted to the infirmary, according to Nary. Subsequently, students should take even greater care to advocate for themselves and discover what tests were performed and what their specific circumstances were. If students are aware of how high their BAC was, for example, they can better assess their choices after the fact and potentially change their behavior.
To reduce the amount of hearsay that circulates about what students should expect regarding their treatment, the University should make it clear to students what is supposed to happen should they be sent to the hospital—that is, they should be informed that the level of treatment depends on the individual case.

Featured Image by Mel Evans / AP Photo

November 2, 2014

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