Rumors resolved after petition stirs nurse controversy


by Britteny Johnson, Staff Reporter

Simpson College students are experiencing the thick of cold and flu season, and with that comes the nerves of having the proper care available to students.

With these nerves and rumors spreading around about more budget cuts at Simpson, some students feared the loss of the healthcare option on campus. This fear was not unwarranted either.

At the beginning of the fall semester of 2014 the healthcare options for Simpson were brought up for debate after Rita Audlehelm, the previous director of Health Services, left the school. Before Audlehelm’s departure there were two part-time nursing positions, but afterward the discussion began about whether to hire another person. The school was hit with a budget deficit and cuts needed to be made.

Heidi Levine, vice president of Student Development and Planning, said that the decision was made to keep Katie Lee on as the only nurse and the director of Health Services because of the other medical clinics and resources so close to campus.

“I sincerely believe that if we were in a place where there were not medical services that were available nearby, a different decision would have been made,” Levine said.

After the decision in the fall about keeping just one nurse, the possibility of cutting the healthcare service at Simpson was brought up again in the spring of 2015 as the budget committee was developing recommendations for addressing the college’s budget.

Levine said the question of whether or not to keep the healthcare service on campus was probably brought up more because the Affordable Care Act was passed and the assumption was that everyone would have health insurance. Even with the Affordable Care Act though, not every student has adequate health insurance or even health insurance at all.

“The cabinet made the decision that they felt that it was important to continue to have the service here, partly for accessibility of students, because we know that not everybody does have health insurance or have health insurance that is good, not everybody has a vehicle and there are a lot of health concerns that come up on a college campus that don’t require a physician,” Levine said.

With the previous discussions about whether or not to keep the healthcare service and the nurse in the back of minds, during the first week of this November a student created a petition from fear of losing the nurse in potential upcoming budget cuts. Levine said that with the creation of this petition she was able to have a conversation with Jennifer Nostrala, the chair of the College Budget Committee, about whether or not cutting Katie Lee’s position has been a part of the Budget Committee’s discussions this year. Luckily for students, it has not.

Lee’s position is more than just a nurse. As director of Health Services, Lee teaches CPR, First Aid and blood-borne pathogen training to some of the staff. She teaches alcohol awareness to the Community Advisors in the fall and she participates in the wellness fair. She also works closely with international students to make sure that they have proper insurance and TB forms and immunizations.

She even helps students try to get health insurance. Lee does all of this and much more on top of caring for students’ health.

“My number one priority is to see the students that are ill. I also try to do some health promotion, whether that be Health-101 or with balancing life activities, with tables and booths at the wellness fair,” Lee said.

For the time being, students can still count on having Lee in the Health Services office on the second floor of Kent to help with anything from minor health issues to having her refer them to a doctor for more serious illnesses and much more.