Initially students could access a community clinic that served the general public, staff, professors and students. But a strong desire to help improve student access to care and to cater services to their specific needs led to the creation in 2022 of the , in which students have a dedicated health and wellness environment.
From medical assessments to vaccinations to mental health counselling and case management, the Centre addresses the multifaceted needs of students. Recognizing the challenges students often face when leaving home, the Centre focuses on wellness education and promotion, and continues to adapt to evolving demands, including offering extended hours in the evenings and on weekends. The uOttawa Student Health and Wellness Centre is one of the few among its Canadian counterparts that provides expanded hours of care.
Increasing demand for services
“The Centre is far from meeting the demand, in terms of appointment requests,” says Cindy Miron, who is the senior manager of the Student Health and Wellness Centre. Since the Centre’s opening in 2022, it has managed over 50,000 appointments. Miron emphasizes that the team has a solid understanding of the factors driving the increased demand, one of which she believes to be the difficulty that students face in accessing a family doctor. She encourages students who already have a family physician to maintain that relationship for chronic illnesses because not only does this provide them with long-term health management, but also it allows the Centre to offer more appointments for acute and punctual issues.
Miron has seen an increase in the need for mental health services and gender-affirming care. The pressures of student life can result in heightened stress and anxiety, particularly during exam periods. The Centre keeps a close eye on trends to maximize resources during peak periods, which occur primarily in November and February.
A new way of serving students
Plans are in place to meet the evolving needs of students. A project has been launched to simplify access to an array of services using a centralized gateway, where students will initiate their own journey toward wellness. Cindy Miron says, “We want their needs assessed and their care assigned to the right health professional or resource, so we are creating a solid triage model to enable us to do this.” In future, this model will encourage self-education by offering resources, such as apps, flyers or websites, where students can equip themselves with knowledge and answers to common health queries. The new service model will also allow for more complex issues to be addressed through consultations and in-person assessments with experts who can personalize support. The goal for this project is to ensure that students are autonomous by having them be well-informed and pairing with the right level of care.
Planning care and support for the future
Given the growing need for its services, how does the Centre plan for the future? Miron emphasized that what they do is determined by what students need. Student-centric care involves soliciting feedback after each visit and this serves as a cornerstone for managing services and continuously improving them. Services are tailored based on feedback. Miron points out that additional resources – funding, staffing and infrastructure – are essential to reduce wait times and ensure that every student receives the care and support they need in a timely manner.
There is a need for expanded services in areas such as nutrition, physiotherapy, and occupational therapy. The Centre is building relationships across campus to provide those services via internships, residencies or apprenticeships. This model provides valuable work experiences and enhances the Centre’s capacity. The long-term plan is to relocate all student health and wellness services under one roof.
The success of the Student Health and Wellness Centre reflects a commitment to prioritizing student well-being and creating an environment where students thrive personally, academically, and beyond. The Centre will continue to evolve and innovate to ensure all students receive the care they deserve.