The Cal Poly Health Center started a free after-hours nurse hot line in response to the rapid spread of H1N1. It will help students who have health inquiries when the Health Center is closed.

“This product we have purchased is an accredited nurse info line. They are practiced at interviewing over the phone and trained,” said Dr. Martin Bragg, director of Health and Counseling Services.

The company, Nurse Response, has professionally trained triage nurses who received special training to help patients make informed decisions by phone. The service is open from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday as well as on weekends and holidays. The service became available on Oct. 24.

The program cost between $35,000 and $40,000, which came from an emergency funds reserve. These funds are similar to a savings account, which the Health Center keeps for unexpected costs.  This year, the reserve started with about $500,000. The money is also used to purchase software and computers and to maintain staff during budget cuts.

This program will not affect health fees this year or next year.

There are similar products that are online and feature live chat with medical professionals. However, Bragg said there is something lost when you don’t hear the person’s voice in communication; he felt that the Nurse Response’s phone service would be more beneficial.

“There have been times when I have wished the Health Center was open on the weekend,” mechanical engineering junior Tyler Whipple said. “It will be helpful for quick questions rather than going into the ER.”

Although the hot line was started because of H1N1, it is not only for flu cases. Students can fire off symptom-specific questions, learn if they should wait to treat their symptoms when the Health Center opens or ask general health questions.

“I won’t really use (the nurse hot line) because my sister is a doctor, so I just call her for help. I think for most people who don’t have that family member it is a really good idea,” biology sophomore Misty Moyle said.

This service has been available for many years.

“We had explored (the nurse hot line) as a possibility several years ago,” Bragg said.

However, it did not seem to be necessary because most students at Cal Poly have health insurance, he said. Nearly all health insurance includes a health advice line in the cost. It was decided in the past that it was not worth the cost when most students had access to a similar service.

Due to “the flu epidemic at hand,”  Bragg said the service now seemed to be a good option for the Health Center. An e-mail announcing the nurse hot line’s availability said that this would be the “most challenging year health-wise.”

Nurse Response is used at Humboldt State and 15 other universities nationwide. They also work with other businesses, including health providers, hospitals, provider groups and state agencies.

The program will be used on a trial basis this year. Once the Health Center conducts an annual review, they will decide whether it been a worthwhile venture.

“With this extraordinary year we are going through, we thought it would be helpful to have one number to advertise for students,” Bragg said.

More information can be found at or the hot line (1-866-439-2012).

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