First of all, congratulations on starting the next chapter of your life. You’ve got this! College is an exciting time, and you deserve to make the most of it. We have composed a checklist for you to review before your big adventure!
Gather all of your major medical paperwork, including diagnoses, lab work, treatment history, and current treatment plans and keep them in an accessible location (this could be a physical folder or an electronic file)
*Pro-tip- You might want to make a copy of your records. This way you can leave the original ones at home as a back-up.
You will want to give these files to any new care providers. You may additionally want to use them to apply for accommodations (this process will be addressed later).
If you are comfortable doing so, you might want to let a roommate or trusted friend know where these medical files are located in case of an emergency in which you are unconscious.
If you received accommodations in high school or expect that you will need them in college, reach out to your school’s disability services office. This office can help you arrange any reasonable accommodations you need to access both academics and campus life.
Pro-tip- Registering for disability services does not mean that you need to use your accommodations. It is a good idea to register with this office whether or not you think you will need accommodations. This will give you less to stress about if the need arises.
To learn more about accommodations and disability law, check out our blog all about applying for accommodations in college.
Stop by your college health center and introduce yourself to the staff. Tell them a bit about IBD and ask them if there are any services they can provide.
If your campus is far from home, you should find a local specialist who can work with you during the academic year (take the potential of fatigue into consideration). Try to make an appointment so that you are an official patient. There are very few things more stressful than finding out a local doctor is no longer taking new patients when your health is on the line.
IBD and ostomy life can come with emergencies. You should locate medical facilities that you could use if you need urgent treatment for when the health center/ your doctor’s office is not open.
While anxiety does not cause IBD, it can exacerbate the condition. It is, therefore, a good idea to meet with your school’s counseling center at the beginning of the semester.
The amount of information you give your peers and professors about your condition is up to you. However, communication is the key to preventing misunderstandings. If you find yourself regularly running to the restroom or falling asleep in class, let you professor know that this is the result of a medical condition. You could simply shoot an email saying:
Hello Professor (Name),
I just wanted to let you know that I have been leaving class a lot lately due to a medical condition. I enjoy your class very much. Please do not confuse my illness with rudeness.
Thank you for your understanding.
If you recently turned eighteen (or are turning eighteen soon), you might want to consider discussing healthcare record access with your parents, caregivers, or a trusted loved one.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPPA) was created to protect patient’s privacy. It allows you to access your medical records and control how your information is used or shared. One of the consequences of this is that your doctor cannot share any medical information with your parents or caregiver once you turn eighteen. HIPPA protects your privacy even in emergency situations in which you are unable to contact your parents yourself. This is the case even if you are on your parents’ health insurance.
If you would like your parents to remain involved and informed about your health, you will need to sign a HIPPA release form.
Now, you might be understandably concerned about your privacy. No matter how close you are to your parents, there is likely medical information you do not want them to see. No need to fear.
A HIPPA authorization form allows you to stipulate which parts of your healthcare records remain private, such as sexual or mental health.
As with any college student, you might additionally want to consider filling out a Health Care Proxy form. This allows your parents or guardians to make decisions about your treatment if you are incapacitated.
College and adulting with chronic illness is hard, but a little preparation can go a long way! Good luck!