Medical Leaves at Quinnipiac Common, but Beneficial for All

By on February 20, 2013

Every semester approximately 25 students within the Quinnipiac student body are placed on medical leaves of absence for both physical and mental health-related issues after meeting certain criteria, Director of Emergency Management John Twining said. The leaves are either voluntary or mandatory.

According to Associate Vice President for Student Services Carol Boucher, the number of students who return from these medical leaves of absence has been going up.

“The ones who understand and accept it and embrace [their health problem], a lot of them come back,” Boucher said.

Over the past few years, the school has seen a significant increase in the number of students who have been placed on medical leaves, Boucher said. She also said the number of students who use the school counselors, but are not placed on medical leave, is much higher than one might imagine.

She went on to say that the trend is not capable of being taken at just face value.

“Now does that mean we have more problems or are we doing a better job? I think probably both,” Boucher said.

The university runs a program called the Preemptive Assessment Team (PAT), which is dedicated to locating students who may be having mental health-related issues. The program is designed to locate students and then send them to find the proper help.

This help may entail counseling at the Student Health Services or an evaluation by the school psychiatrist.

“We try not to let anyone get lost in the shuffle,” Boucher said.

While identifying students who need to be placed on medical leaves, Boucher has encountered both angry students and parents who disagree with her decisions.

In addition to PAT, Boucher and Twining also offer classes for faculty that are designed to help faculty members understand the common symptoms of a mentally ill student.

However, the classes are not mandatory and are only given when Boucher and Twining are invited by the faculty.

According to the Quinnipiac Emergency Guide, some behaviors thought to be warning signs are changes in hygiene or appearance, excessive or unexplained absences and exhibition of intimidating or disruptive behavior.

“Some people behave whacky, and if that’s their norm, that’s one thing,” Boucher said. “But if someone’s been outgoing for a month and that’s how you know them, then all of a sudden they don’t want to talk to anyone and their head is down, there’s something going on.”

Quinnipiac’s Student Handbook says for a voluntary medical leave of absence, students are required to attain documentation of their serious psychiatric or physical illness. University officials will then review this documentation and decide whether or not to offer a medical leave. Return is granted once a private physician provides medical clearance. University officials must then review and accept this clearance.

Mandatory leaves of absence for psychiatric problems are given to students based on three different criteria. According to the Quinnipiac Student Handbook, a student may be placed on medical leave if: the student may be perceived to be a threat to self or others; the student cannot withstand the rigors of the college experience; or, a student’s behavior becomes disruptive to the educational mission of the university.

Mandatory leaves of absence can also be granted for physical injuries.

“We are very conservative about those three criteria,” Boucher said. “Putting someone on a medical leave is not done lightly at all.”

Boucher cites the program as helping with smaller issues before they become something bigger.

“We try to be proactive. We try to see you’re depressed before it goes to the next level,” Boucher said.

According Twining, the real value of the program is that it works to prevent larger problems. To Twining, prevention is key.

“The more you prevent from happening, the less people are gonna get hurt,” Twining said. “It’s what we try to do.”

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