Focus groups to begin to improve Boynton health care

The Council of Graduate students wants graduate students’ feedback.

Jenna Wilcox

Graduate student organizations will hold focus groups beginning Thursday with the aim of improving health care for graduate students.

The focus groups, to be held throughout January, will be targeted at graduate students’ care at Boynton Health Service because of their unique needs.

In early 2011, Kathy Nelson began hearing complaints about the care at Boynton while she served on the Student Health Advisory Committee on behalf of the Council of Graduate Students.

Nelson said continuity of care and the ability to give feedback are some of the biggest concerns. Some graduate students reported feeling like they are treated more like students than patients.

“People assume that you’re out partying and not coming in because you’re ill, but because you’re hungover,” Nelson said.

She decided to put the focus groups together to give Boynton tangible evidence about the concerns from graduate students so they can better meet those needs.

“Focus groups might be a good way to change the perception people have about health providers at Boynton,” she said.

COGS also partnered with the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly to fund the project.

The initiative will cost the groups up to $4,800 if they have the data professionally analyzed. If they do the project in-house, it will cost $2,700.

The group would prefer to bring in an outside analyst to avoid bias in the interpretation, according to a project proposal.

GAPSA Executive Vice President Brittany Edwards said she believes that, as student government, GAPSA has an obligation to help be “good stewards of student fees.”

“It is disappointing to hear that not everyone has had the same positive experience as me [at Boynton] from the initial feedback we received,” she said.

The focus groups will identify students’ opinions and experiences at Boynton facilities in an effort to highlight areas of success and failure.

COGS President Emily Combs said graduate students have different medical needs than undergraduates. She said many graduate students use Boynton for primary care while undergraduates mostly utilize Boynton for secondary care.

“Graduate students are also more likely to be parents and tend to be older,” she said, “so they might be dealing with different health concerns.”

Each focus group will be composed of eight people with four groups of women and two groups of men.

In addition to the focus groups, Boynton intends to begin a post-visit quality of care survey to improve feedback.

Nelson said there won’t likely be any drastic policy changes for Boynton, but as a result of the focus groups there might be additional training.

“Health care providers need to take a minute and read the patient’s chart instead of treating it like a quick clinic,” she said.