Message from the Director of Medical Services

Jan. 28, 2022

Why our practices have changed

From Dr. Melissa Marks, Director of Medical Services:

Dear PU students,

As we enter the spring semester, 2022, I would like to share with you why UHS Medical Services’ clinical care practices have changed, and that may impact how you access medical care.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended that during the COVID-19 pandemic, Health Care facilities must “adjust the way they triage, evaluate, and care for patients using methods that do not rely on in-person services.”  Two particularly crucial reasons for this adjustment are:

  1. To protect patients from further exposure to unnecessary germs, and
  2. To allocate resources in a way that preserves in-person care for when it is medically necessary.

UHS Medical Services’ care model for acute illnesses utilizes a phone triage system where a highly skilled Medical Services Registered Nurse in collaboration with a Physician and/or Nurse Practitioner obtains clinical information that determines whether or not a student needs an in-person appointment and how urgently.  In some cases, this phone triage assessment is enough to determine that it is reasonably safe for a student to continue with self-care at their residence without having to come to McCosh. This advice is always given with the caveat, “If things change, please call back for a re-evaluation.” Reasons to immediately access care, like severe shortness of breath or fainting are also shared with ill callers. These conversations are meant to provide students with care and advice, without the additional risk of exposing them or others to unnecessary infectious spread or requiring them to physically come to McCosh to be seen.

Another change in Medical Services that is a result of the pandemic is the significant broadening of responsibilities. UHS' Medical Services manages the Global and Community Health program responsible for the vast majority of public health interventions (including but not limited to positive test notification, isolation determination, contact tracing, and departure from isolation communication,) as well as the ongoing daily care for hundreds of students in COVID isolation. UHS was also charged with implementing, and now maintaining, the University’s testing program and vaccine program.   

In these ways, UHS as a whole and Medical Services as a subset are playing a very different and expanded role at Princeton University throughout this pandemic, and a measure of our resources has been necessarily redirected to the implementation of critical health interventions and risk mitigation strategies. Know that we are working daily to replenish those resources in such a way that we are at all times equipped to care for the medical needs of the student community. Replenishment, however, is not solely dependent on monetary funds - it is also dependent on the availability of resources. Today’s healthcare environment is defined by scarcity of the most important resources: clinicians.

We are aware that students need routine and specialty care, and we are dedicated to addressing these requests as quickly as possible. We greatly appreciate your patience when requesting appointments and your trust that you will receive substantial and thoughtful care from our team in a safe and timely manner.

Please also know that our clinic and after-hours infirmary are open for sudden, urgent/emergent care needs.

To assist in our COVID response efforts, we encourage your continued observance of the University’s health measures, and specifically those related to obtaining healthcare at McCosh: 

  • Adhering to your testing schedule
  • Strict mask compliance for all individuals, regardless of vaccination status, within an indoor setting;
  • Masking at outdoor events for all unvaccinated individuals, and masking for vaccinated individuals as required
  • Completing a symptom check on your Tigersafe App prior to entering McCosh. The requirement for a symptom checks at the entryway to our health care facility continues to be a requirement of the NJ Department of Health.
  • Calling McCosh to make an appointment.

We thank you for your participation in safeguarding the campus community and will continue to provide you with high-quality care in a timely manner. Thank you for your understanding.