Health counsellor for students
MAASTRICHT. Maastricht University recently appointed a health counsellor for students: a single contact person for students with physical health problems. Students won’t get a medical diagnosis and there will be no treatment either. The counsellor advises and points (foreign) students in the right direction of the often unknown world of Dutch health care.
A foreign student with diabetes comes to Maastricht to study and in doing so loses some of his trusted care. How can he get the same in the Netherlands? Where can he go if he needs help or medication. Or: 'I have COVID-19 symptoms, where can I have myself tested? What does it cost? How can I prevent neglecting my study if I have to self-isolate?'
Until a few weeks ago, there were a lot of COVID-19-related questions put to Jacqueline Pommé, trained nurse and midwife, and since recently a health counsellor for students at Maastricht University, but more and more questions are about health care insurances, how to sign up with a GP, and the way towards primary and secondary health care. Pommé: “Foreign students often don’t know what they have let themselves in for.”
But just to be clear: whether you are from Groningen or from Rome: it is advisable to sign up with a GP in Maastricht. Because they are important. You can’t always run to A & E with your minor – non-urgent – little pain.
According to Pauline Aalten, head of the UM Student Desk at the Student Services Centre, there has been a need for an accessible contact person for some time, “the mental side of things is the responsibility of the psychologists for students. That works, much effort is put into prevention with training sessions and workshops. But the UM really wants to look at the whole health picture, both mental and physical. There is no great need for something like a doctor for students here, like they have in the Randstad, for example. GP practices in Maastricht are not as full as in the West of the country, so students can sign up more easily.”
Besides, health counsellor Pommé – contrary to doctors for students, who are often GPs – will not be making a diagnosis or providing treatment. So it is mainly an advisory position, a listening ear, someone who refers (not officially) to the regular health care.
Critics will wonder why the university is investing money in such a counsellor position. Are the students not responsible for themselves? Can they not find these things out for themselves? “They are certainly responsible for themselves and their own health,” says Aalten. “The individual students take a central position at this university with all their competences that can only be developed if they feel well and ‘at home’. Sometimes, you have to help them on their way. As a university, we want to give them a helping hand.”