“Health Care and the Transition to Education and Employment”, by Teresa Nguyen and Mallory Cyr (Consumer Transition Experts, Got Transition; Past and Current LEND fellows)

The 2014 NDEAM theme, EXPECT.EMPLOY.EMPOWER. appears in large white letters at the center of the poster on a blue backdrop of a collage of images of people with disabilities in a variety of work settings. On the right side is a large image from the back of a female wheelchair user. On the back of her chair are the words What can YOU do? The words at the bottom on a silver banner include National Disability Employment Awareness Month, DOL’s logo with the words Office of Disability Employment Policy United States Department of Labor and ODEP’s website: www.dol.gov/odep.Teresa Nguyen: Going to college is an exciting step toward adulthood.  There you’ll learn how to manage a full course load, develop lasting friendships, participate in student activities, and take advantage of internship opportunities.  It’s common for students to feel burned-out during this time, so it’s important to recognize that managing your own health care is critical for your success in college.  Below are some things that I found helpful while managing my own health during college:

  • When preparing for college it may be helpful to complete a readiness assessment to ensure that you are prepared and ready to start taking charge of your own health care.
  • When visiting campus, make note of which health care centers/clinics are close to or on your campus. It’s essential to know who your insurance provider is and what types of services it covers so that you can make a decision about which clinic is the best fit for you.
  • Even if your primary care provider will not be located on campus, get to know your student health center. Find out what services they provide – for things like updating your immunizations and filling your prescriptions, this may be more convenient to do on campus.  Most student health centers also have information and resources regarding sexual health, which is also important to take into account when managing your own health care.
  • It’s important to give an updated medical summary to your new health care provider. I also carried it with me on a USB flash drive in case of a medical emergency. The summary helped me remember the details of my past medical procedures and the names/doses of medications that I was taking.
  • Lastly, don’t hesitate to reach out to your campus Office of Disability Services. As a person with a disability, I knew that it was crucial for me to have certain accommodations regarding my health in order to complete my coursework successfully.  This office helps secure reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities to allow you to have equal opportunities in education.  Disclosing your disability to your professors will be entirely up to you, and you shouldn’t feel pressured to do so if you are uncomfortable.  You may find it helpful to do so, especially to allow them to maintain flexibility with you and your coursework.

Mallory Cyr: Managing your own health care once you are working is very different world than when you are in school.  The focus becomes “communicating and prioritizing.”

  • When beginning a new job, it is up to you how much you disclose to your employer about your health needs and what you do or do not request for accommodations. While you may not want to bring attention to your health condition, the more you explain to your manager or employer ahead of time, the more they can support you or be able to prepare for if you do need to miss work.
  • Another thing that gets more complicated once you are working is balancing your medical appointments with your job.  Often, providers only have office hours when you are working so it will be up to you to figure out when you schedule appointments. This also means that you will have to prioritize what providers you see.  Health needs that need to be addressed may become a higher priority than a check-up or well-visit appointment.  Sometimes, you may need to make the decision to take a day off with no appointments so that you can rest and make sure you are taking care of you in between medical appointments.
  • Because of the limited time you may have when you are working, it is especially important that you know how to make the most of the time you do have with your providers during appointments. The tools offered at www.GotTransition.org can help you become confident in understanding your own needs and having those conversations.  Their Resources page even includes a list of sites and information dedicated to Employment and Transition.