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The Dartmouth
April 14, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Limited appointment availability at Dick’s House prompts student frustration

Appointments are often unavailable for weeks, according to student sources.

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A record number of students living on campus this fall has placed heavy demands on College operations — including the College Health Service. This term, some students have reported weeks-long appointment waits and difficulties contacting Dick’s House staff.

One member of the Class of 2025, who requested anonymity for medical privacy reasons, said that after waking up with cold symptoms one morning, she called Dick’s House in an attempt to reschedule her appointment to an earlier date. Nearly two hours later, a Dick’s House employee returned her call and explained that there were no available appointments in the near future. 

“Then the next day, when I got worse, I called again, and was on hold for 20, maybe 30 minutes,” she said. “When I finally got through, I couldn’t choose an appointment time. They just were like, ‘We have one opening, and you have to come then.’”

Representatives from the College Health Services did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this article. As of Wednesday evening, the earliest available in-person appointment was on Nov. 19, according to the Dartmouth Health Service’s online appointment scheduler. 

After her appointment, the student noted that her condition did not improve. However, she said she felt hesitant about continuing to use Dick’s House’s services after what she described as an “unhelpful” experience trying to book an appointment.

“I didn’t really get better, but I didn’t really want to deal with [Dick’s House] again,” she said. “I just didn’t make another appointment and just dealt with it on my own.”

Marion Caldwell ’25 recounted a similar experience. 

During bouts with the “freshmen plague” and pink eye, Caldwell said she tried to schedule a  Dick’s House appointment. After realizing online appointments were booked for “several weeks,” she resorted to calling instead; on the call, a nurse sent her handouts related to pink eye and instructed her to call back in three days if her symptoms worsened. 

After a day, Caldwell said she began experiencing impaired vision. When she called back in another attempt to schedule an appointment, she was told to call back in two days as initially instructed. However, 20 minutes later, she said she received a call back after the Dick’s House employee “changed [their] mind” and was able to schedule an appointment for the following day. At her appointment, she was seen by a primary care provider, who diagnosed her with a viral infection and advised her to “drink tea before bed [and] use saline drops.” 

“They told me I was fine and sent me on my way,” Caldwell said. “At this point, I was really not feeling fine, and I ended up going to [Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center] that night.”

At DHMC, Caldwell said she was diagnosed with pink eye and an acute upper respiratory infection. She was prescribed antibiotics because of her “high risk of a secondary infection.”

DHMC is located approximately 2.5 miles south of campus, but Caldwell was able to get a ride from her undergraduate advisor. Caldwell said that the College rule against first-year students having cars on campus, in addition to Dartmouth’s relative isolation, makes students particularly dependent on Dick’s House.

When Ellie Cliff ’22 woke up with what she thought was a sinus infection, she attempted to call Dick’s House “eight or nine times” before an employee picked up and instructed Cliff to come to the office in person to schedule an appointment. After waiting at Dick’s House for nearly 45 minutes, she said she was finally able to speak to an employee, who advised her to go to ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care in Lebanon instead. 

“[The employee] was like, ‘We aren’t making appointments now,’” she said. “[The employee] said that was the note they got from their higher-ups, to push everything to ClearChoice.” 

ClearChoiceMD Urgent Care, located about 5.5 miles from campus in Lebanon, is even further from campus than DHMC. Cliff, like many other Dartmouth students, did not have a means of transportation to drive to Lebanon. Instead, she opted to continue waiting at Dick’s House in case another student canceled their appointment or failed to show up. After 20 minutes, Cliff was able to see a primary care provider, who diagnosed her with a sinus infection and ear infection, prescribing antibiotics for the latter.

Despite the inaccessibility of DHMC and ClearChoiceMD and a backlog of student appointments, Dick’s House is closed on weekends, according to a schedule on their website. Many students who fall sick on Saturday or Sunday, or who need to pick up prescriptions from the Dick’s House pharmacy, have few alternative options. 

Ryan Waaland ’22 found himself in this position when he needed to pick up a prescription from Dick’s House over the weekend.

“I just didn’t have medicine over the weekend, which isn’t really safe for the medicine that I’m taking,” said Waaland. “On Saturday, I couldn’t take the medicine. I tried to get a hold of [Dick’s House], but couldn’t get to them. Fortunately, I finally got in touch with their nurse helpline, and they were able to get the prescription transferred to CVS.”