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College and the "IBD Challenged" Student

By, Hope Trachtenberg-Fifer R.N., M.S. 

As a college student, it's hard enough balancing your work load and social life; maybe even a job. Add a chronic disease to the mix, and college can become even more of a challenge, especially during flares. Just because you have IBD, it doesn't mean that you can't enjoy a happy and successful college life. It's important to go on with your routine, and not let the disease control you.

Here are some suggestions many students have found helpful:  

Dealing with Doctors and School: 

  • Find ways to manipulate your environment to take full advantage of school. Don't isolate yourself because you have IBD!
  • It is important to take full advantage of all that college has to offer, anywhere from parties, to student life organizations, but be careful with the effects of missing sleep and alcohol on your symptoms.
  • Meet with someone in your school's Student Disabilities Office and work out a plan in case you become sick and miss a test or classes. Bring doctor confirmation of your medical condition and any special needs with you.
  • Get to know your professors, and inform them that you have registered with the Disabilities Office. This way, they know the situation and will be prepared to be accommodating. 
  • If you miss class, follow up with your instructors. Keep on top of your work. If you happen to not feel well one day, it will make things easier if you don't have that many more tasks to accomplish.
  • Find a seat by the door during class in case you need to get up to use the restroom. It will cause less of a disruption that way.
  • Get to know at least one person in each of your classes. If you miss class due to not feeling well, you will know where to get the notes.
  • If you have to live in the dorms, check into the reduced occupancy or singly rooms, and if those are not available, ask for a room closest to the community bathrooms. By bringing a letter from your gastroenterologist you will be able to be accommodated.
  • Find the doctors with IBD expertise near your college.
  • Remember to get regular checkups, lab work, and colonoscopies as needed - either close to school, or back at home during school breaks - don't get too busy to do this!
  • Due to HIPAA regulations, if you're over 18 years old, your parents will not be permitted to be involved in your care without your express consent. You're an adult, and your medical business is treated confidentially. So, if you want your mom or dad to have access to your medical records - and this includes financial records relating to your medical treatment- you will need to sign a HIPAA release form for each medical provider you see, including the Student Health Service, pharmacies, and labs. This is a very good thing to take care of in advance, if you can, or at least the first time you see a new provider. Most students will want at least one parent to be their health care advocate, and this can be very difficult to accomplish without being permitted to know "protected information."
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