How can you help your new college student be prepared to handle an issue that they likely have never encountered before? Ask yourself these questions: What have you done to prepare if the unthinkable happens – what if your son or daughter has a serious injury or medical emergency, how will you be notified? What kind of information can health care providers share with you? Do you know what medical resources are available close to campus and the hours they are open? Or what if your kid comes across another student who is injured or is having a medical emergency? How can you help them to be prepared to handle an issue that they likely have never encountered before?
Below we’ve laid out a 3-step plan to set up a safety net around your student in preparation for their first year of college.
STEP 1: Set up the Emergency SOS feature on your smart phone.
Did you know that your student’s smart phone has soft wear pre-loaded or available for download that will enable first responders and medical personnel to find out critical healthcare information in the event that he or she is incapacitated or otherwise unable to provide that information. This information can be accessed without unlocking the phone, meaning emergency medical personnel access is limited to only life-saving healthcare information that you load on your phone. The phone cannot be unlocked and other private information cannot be accessed, only life-saving health information on the Emergency SOS application, such as medical conditions, medications and allergies. Depending on the type of phone, the Emergency SOS feature can also notify an emergency contact of your choice, identify your student’s current location and even record a video. But you first have to set up this feature and load this important information. As an Emergency Medicine physician, I can tell you that this feature has helped the lives of many college aged students who have come into the Emergency Department unresponsive or after a serious illness or injury.
For detailed instructions on how to set up the Emergency SOS feature on your student’s phone click here or search Emergency SOS on the web for the type of phone or soft wear that you are using.
STEP 2: Ensure HIPPA forms and HCPOA forms are complete and easy to access.
Most of us have encountered HIPPA, but for the uninitiated, HIPPA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. This law was passed in 1996 and was written to, among other things, allow individuals to decide who has access to protected healthcare information. A HIPPA release form allows physicians to share information and medical records with those listed on the form, typically parents or guardians. HCPOA stands for Heath Care Power of Attorney. This document allows your student to outline their medical wishes and appoint another person to make sure those wishes are enforced in the event that he or she is unable to make their own health care decisions.
So what is the importance of these forms? Remember that even though you may be footing the bill for college, if your student who is over the age of 18, he or she is considered by law to be an adult and they can determine what personal health care information can be shared with you. So is that a big deal? Let’s say, for instance your student becomes “over beveraged” at a party and passes out. EMS is called and he or she is taken to the local hospital. Once there, they wake up and plead, “please don’t tell my mom and dad.” The hospital legally cannot notify the parents of the details of their student’s condition, unless a HIPPA release is signed by your student. And you may not ever know the event even occurred unless you get the insurance claim. Or consider this scenario….your student is struck by a car while dashing across a busy college intersection to get to class and is rendered unconscious. Without a HCPOA release, you may have little say in how and where the care is provided.
Now the reality is that in these extreme situations, physicians, hospitals and social workers will do everything possible to incorporate you into the healthcare decisions that need to be made for your student. But if you cannot be located? Or what if you live across the country from where your student is attending college? Without tending to these details, details that include a signed, and easily accessed HIPPA and HCPOA for, what ensues may be contrary to your wishes.
Colleges don’t necessarily provide these forms or help families navigate their complexities: It’s up to families to do research and decide how or if they want to complete them.
STEP 3. Encourage your student to be an ACTOR, not a BYSTANDER
Regardless of your candor and words of wisdom , and no matter how hard your student works to avoid dangerous situations, he or she will encounter things in college they have never seen before, and it is likely they will be in a position to save a life sometime during their college career. Rather than trying to cover every possible scenario and permutation, it’s best to keep it simple. First – Be familiar with medical amnesty laws at the college your student attends, and make sure your student is as well. We have a Podcast devoted to the Indiana LifeLine Law and how it was used to save a life. See Season 1 – Podcast 4: Medical Amnesty Laws Save Lives.
Secondly, it is important that whenever possible, use the phone of the person in need of help to notify first responders via Emergency SOS system. Let me say that again – It is Important to activate 911 by using the phone of the victim to activate the Emergency SOS feature. Why – this not only activates the 911 system, it also identifies real-time location of the caller and notifies the emergency contacts that individual.
Lastly, make sure to encourage your student to act if he or she sees a person passed out at a party, falls or is otherwise in need, and to call 911 immediately. I want to stress that the decision to call 911 will be incredibly hard for your student, and you need to acknowledge that to your student. There is the fear of over-reacting and peer pressure not to get the authorities involved. Discuss this important act of courage with your student before they struggle making that decision in a time of crisis, and share with them examples of how everyday students have become unwitting heroes by doing the right thing when it making that decision seemed so difficult.
For more information about this and other important college preparations, check out College 911.net. The College911.net™ Initiative was established by Nanette Hausman, in honor of her son Corey Hausman – a new student at University of Colorado – Boulder. Corey’s life came to an abrupt end just 15 days into his freshman year after he fell from his skateboard while traveling on a steep campus pathway. Nanette made it her life’s mission to develop programs and introduce legislation to enhance campus safety. Tragically, Nanette recently lost her life battling a medical illness prior to seeing the culmination of her work – just a few short years after her son, Corey. You can help Nanette continue her work by checking out College 911.net and the Corey Safety Act.