There are a lot of things to think about as your student heads off to college. You’ve got financial aid and tuition payments to arrange, a dorm room to furnish, travel arrangements to make, forms to complete, and, of course, you’re trying to fit everything into the car! You think about, and sometimes worry about, lots of things as your student transitions to their new life. Your student’s health may or may not be high on that list.
One thing that will help to ease your mind, and perhaps that of your student as well, is to make sure that you have both completed all of the paperwork that will matter in the event that your student is sick or injured while away at school. There are several important documents that you will both need to be thinking about — and it’s never too late. If your student is already at school and you’ve missed some of these items, discuss them with your student the next time that you talk.
Each school may have different health form requirements, and each state may also have different requirements. If your student is attending school out-of-state, be sure to check with their college about what might be required in that state.
- Medical history — most schools have a standard form which each student must complete with a medical history. This is going to be important for the health center to have if your student is sick. As with all other health information submitted, this information should be covered by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) which is the same federal law which provides confidentiality of information with your own doctor.
- Emergency contact information — the school will need to know who to contact in case of emergency. It is always a good idea to include several people in addition to parents in case you can’t be reached immediately.
- Documentation of a physical exam — almost every school requires that your student submit documentation of a routine physical within the past 12 months. Varsity athletes may need to show that they have had a physical within the past six months. Your doctor may sign a form from the school, or they may have a standard form that you can attach to the school’s paperwork.
- Documentation of immunizations — Your student will need to provide an immunization record. For most schools, this now includes documentation of a meningitis vaccination, or a waiver. This vaccine is especially important for students living in residence halls.
- Record of health insurance — Health insurance coverage is required. Most colleges offer a health insurance plan for students, but this plan can usually be waived if your student is covered under your health insurance. If your student plans to use your health plan, it is important that she have an insurance card and that she know what is/is not covered under the plan. Make sure to discuss this with your student. It is especially important that she be clear about co-payments and about any necessary referrals for services.
- Sickle Cell Trait Form — The NCAA recommends that all athletes participating in NCAA intercollegiate athletics have knowledge of their sickle cell trait status. Sickle cell trait is not a disease. Sickle cell trait is an inherited condition affecting the oxygen-carrying substance, hemoglobin, in the red blood cells. Sickle cell trait is a common condition, which can sometimes cause dangerous conditions during very intense, sustained physical activity, as can occur with collegiate sports. Student-athletes must 1) show proof of a prior test with results; 2) have a blood test to check for sickle cell trait; or 3) sign a testing waiver declining options 1 and 2. If your student is a varsity athlete, check with the school athletics department about requirements.
In addition to the required forms above, there are several other pieces of paperwork and documents that your student should consider — and keep copies at school with them.
- Copies of any prescriptions — If your student takes any medications, they should have copies of their prescriptions and should know how to have prescriptions refilled.
- Record of any serious allergies — If your student has any serious allergies, they should work with the health center, and possibly food service, to be sure that others are aware of any potential reactions and that they receive any necessary accommodations.
- Medical Information Release Form — This is an important form giving you, or anyone else designated, access to your student’s medical records and information. It is sometimes called a Privacy Authorization. This form should be notarized and both you and your student should keep copies of the form. The form should also be submitted to the health center. If your student is ill, injured, or incapacitated, this will allow school personnel or hospital personnel to share information about your student with you.
- Health Care Proxy or Advance Health Care Directive — This form is a medical power of attorney that allows you, or another appointed person, to make medical decisions on your student’s behalf. It will need to be notarized. Once again, if your student is incapacitated or unable to make decisions for themselves, it allows you to make medical decisions quickly. This form might also help you if you need to deal with billing or insurance questions on your student’s behalf. You can check with your student’s health care center or find these forms at www.caringinfo.org.
Anticipating and being prepared for health emergencies will give some peace of mind to both you and your student. As with so many kinds of insurance, you hope that you will never need them, but it is reassuring to know that the pieces are in place if an emergency arises.
Make sure that both you and your student have copies of all of the documentation above. Talking to your student about the need for these forms — and about possible situations and decisions that might arise will be one more opportunity to work together with your student to help them move toward responsible adulthood.