My first experience at Olin Health Center was enough to scare any freshman away. After waiting for an hour and a half to get into the examination room, I was greeted by a nurse who asked me a million questions that did not seem even closely related to my sinus infection. “How would you rate your pain on a scale of 1-10?” she asked. With chest pain, my head throbbing and eyes watering I looked at her and dryly said, “8.” [olin]
“Um, 10 is basically dying so do you really feel that you are in that much pain?” the nurse asked. My new answer was 3, but only because I felt stupid.
The doctor came in and asked the same questions, again checking me over and finally concluding that I may have a sinus infection. Who knew? He prescribed me an antibiotic, but after a week, I was sick again with an infection caused by the first antibiotic, so they had to prescribe me a different antibiotic called Zithromax, one many students are given. Finally after about 6 weeks I was healthy again, but wasted another Olin visit because of Olin.
Staying up late to cram, having a healthy diet of coffee and anything that that is quick and cheap, college students often find themselves sick more often than ever. With quite a few bad experiences under my belt, I set out to see if other students were having such unpleasant visits.
Jared Parko, a microbiology and pre-vet junior, has strong opinions on the Center. “From the stories that I have heard I can see that they practice a different kind of medicine at Olin,” he said. “They like to pre-diagnose conditions before looking at any test results, such as, for example, saying that a girl is ‘pregnant’ when in fact she just has the common flu.”
Are students just pumped full of antibiotics, much like myself, upon complaining of symptoms of anything? Kathi Braunlich, communications and planning coordinator at Olin said that all clinics have recently been more careful about deciding whether antibiotics are necessary or not. “We try to make sure that we don’t prescribe drugs that are unnecessary, but it probably happens occasionally,” she said. “This may seem more apparent to the patient if there was a lack of communication between the medical provider and their self.”
Braunlich said that the rating your pain is a new technique and is universal throughout health care. She said this started because many patients were under treated on their discomfort level, so this pain scale was developed to help diagnose and treat patients’ discomfort better. “I understand some people say it’s overkill and are like, ‘uh, why are you asking me this?’ but it is really for their benefit.”
However, it is important to note the sheer amount of patients Olin doctors and nurses see. Olin sees about 150-200 students a day alone within the gynecology, primary care and urgent care departments, Braunlich said. She added that they see probably 300 students total, not counting pharmacy and X-ray. Flu season is in full force and Braunlich said there will be a higher demand for medical providers. The MSU physician’s health team will likely come in to help with the influx of students. In the past, Olin has seen a maximum of 500 students total in one day and it was during flu season.
With numbers like that, my bad experiences may be unrepresentative of the whole, or as a result of a high patient load. Some students had a normal visit, but perhaps not without some good luck on their part.
Finance junior Srinivas Sakamuri came in hobbling because he rolled his ankle playing basketball last year. There were several people in the waiting room but when the receptionist saw him she jumped up and got him a wheelchair. “She pushed me right into a room and the doctor came right in after,” said Sakamuri. “He gave me an air cast, pain medication, and taught me different exercises for my ankle, which I found out had ligament and tendon damage.”
Sakamuri’s girlfriend, nursing sophomore Heather Binasio, also had a good experience at Olin this year. She too was rushed ahead of the other students in the waiting room. She called first to let them know she was having back pain, and she thought she might have a collapsed rib because she had one before. “I walked in and gave the desk receptionist my name and she jumped up and put me right in a room,” said Binasio. “There was this poor girl in the waiting room holding up her hand in the air bleeding from a dog bite, but I was rushed in ahead of everyone.”
One student with a “minor” injury was not so lucky. Construction management junior Robert Rohlman was not very fortunate when he went to get his stitches out from having a mole removed over Christmas break. His doctor at home told him that all he needed to do was go in to Olin and they would take care of him. “The desk receptionist was making it difficult because she said I didn’t have the proper paperwork from my doctor at home and kept telling me that they wouldn’t be able to remove them because of this,” he said. “I got fed up and went and found a nurse who had somewhat of an idea what they were talking about – she realized I didn’t even need any paperwork to get it done.” Rohlman said even after he got into the room, the nurse asked him three times why he was there. Needless to say, he has avoided Olin since.
Despite the level of satisfaction students have with Olin, Braunlich said that Olin hires regular medical providers for full-time treatment and can prescribe medicine. The center also has physician assistants and nurse practitioners, which is the case in all other health clinics, she said.
Braunlich also said she wants students to know that Olin is here for them because they want them to be healthy for their academics. “We are ask-able,” she said. “Call, email us, use our Web page, know that we are here whether you are sick or not.”
Students, like me, who have done their time at Olin, had better start preparing for flu season by taking vitamins, washing those hands and getting more sleep to avoid the waiting room. Everyone else can wait until the last minute to go in and get medicine when they feel like dying – but of course, not a rating of 10.

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