Do I need to go to the doctor? Problem solved.


Less may not be more: I can never decide when and if I should go to a doctor. I tend towards a “less is more” approach with western medicine, hoping my body can fight away illnesses and muscle aches on its own. But after a few weeks of struggling against a health issue, I always wonder – “Am I a few days away from being better? Or is this a battle my body will only win with some medical intervention?” I have found the question of whether or not to seek medical care to be the most challenging part of health care.

Some example questions from my medical history:

  • I’m fairly certain I broke my nose playing pickup basketball – do I need to go see a doctor right away or not? Do I go to an ER? Call my primary care provider?  Do nothing?
  • I have been battling a cold for over a week. I’m coughing and sniffly. My snot recently went from clear to a greenish yellow. Is this turning to a bacterial infection that will need meds to get better? Or in a few days will I beat it on my own?
  • I have this recurring pain in my abs. I am fairly certain it is not in the location of any major organs, but I do not know why I keep having a sharp, point specific pain just above my ovaries. Do I have some sort of ovarian cyst? Am I pregnant? Or did I tweak an ab muscle?

CHSDoes any of that sound familiar to you?

Thankfully for UNC students, you don’t have to make these kinds of decisions all on your own anymore – nor do you need to wait several weeks to determine whether to seek care or not.

Online Nurse Advice: Campus Health offers an online tool that funnels your responses to questions about current symptoms to a CHS nurse. The nurse reviews your responses and calls you back with information for how you can take care of yourself at home or helps you set up an appointment – for the same day if needed. They typically respond within an hour of your submission, but do also have the caveat that there may be longer wait times. The nurses promise to respond by the next business day at the latest. In other words, if you are bleeding out (or have another emergent issue), just go to the ER. Don’t wait to get your call back.

You can also preview the tool (click “preview it” below the big “sign in” button) to see what kind of questions they will ask. This also provides a sneak preview into what symptoms might indicate your issue is a bigger deal. For example, when I looked up my nose injury I thought, “my nose is not very deformed or crooked – it’s only slightly deformed and crooked. Whew!”

You should know that the call back service is only available during CHS regular hours – 8am-5pm Monday through Friday. So if you fill in the tool after hours or on the weekend, you definitely will not be called back before the next business day.

Bonus! You do not have to take the “less is more” approach to medical care when you are a UNC student. You have already paid for many services at Campus Health with your health fee that you paid with tuition and fees. As one example – you get access to the online nurse advice service – no charge. You also can visit a primary care provider without any further charge to you or your insurance. Tests, lab work, casts, etc. will have charges passed along to your insurance, but going to talk to a doc, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant is a-ok for your wallet. Our website has details about everything that is covered by the health fee (and what is not covered too).

Use the benefits of Campus Health Services, and worry no more about whether or not you should get to the doctor.

Feel free to leave questions about online nurse advice in the comments, or learn more at campushealth.unc.edu. Please note that this blog is not a place to ask about specific medical advice.

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