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NORTHAMPTON — A petition urging Smith College to preserve full registered nurse services at Pelham Medical Services at Schact Center for Health and Wellness is currently circulating online.

The plea to keep full services comes after the college recently announced budget cuts, including eliminating one of two full-time nursing positions.

“This decision raises significant apprehension about our ability to meet the diverse healthcare needs of our students,” reads the petition, in response to the proposed cut. “The reduction in staffing will severely impede our capacity to maintain the level of service excellence that our students rightfully expect.”

According to a release from the Massachusetts Nurses Association, medical team members wrote letters to Smith administrators with concerns that the cut will mean a deterioration of care for students who require “diverse” and “complex” treatment.

“The reduction in staffing will severely impede our capacity to maintain the level of service excellence that our students rightfully expect,” the petition said. “Our nurses play a pivotal role in providing clinical support across medical, counseling and psychiatry services. Without this position, we anticipate the need to consider scaling back our hours and narrowing our scope of services.”

According to the petition, there have been close to 1,500 nursing visits during the 2023-24 academic year, which is up from 678 nursing visits in the 2018-19 academic year.

The petition also states that care at Pelham Medical Services has expanded and become more complex in recent years as anxiety, eating disorders and depression have become top diagnoses seen by doctor nurse practitioners in the medical service.

“The elimination of this position not only jeopardizes the quality of care we provide but also compromises the safety and well-being of our campus community,” read the petition.

According to information provided by the MNA, Pelham nurses see in-person visits linked to 50 different nurse protocols and standing orders created by the medical director.

“Having nurses see more straightforward visit types allows our doctor and nurse practitioners to see medically and psychiatrically complex patients every day,” the MNA said.

The clinical staffing at the Schact Center currently consists of one medical assistant, three RNs and six providers between medical services and psychiatric providers in the counseling services. According to the MNA, the RNs and medical assistant provide support for medical and psychiatric providers and schedules are already staggered to provide adequate daily coverage.

As of press time, 369 people have signed the petition calling for the college to keep the RN position. The petition has a goal of 500 signatures.

The people who have signed so far left comments of support for the RN position. The majority of them are Smith faculty, alumni and students.

“We students already have long waits to see nurses here,” said petition signee Clara. “Halving the number of nurses able to see us would be extremely detrimental to Smith’s ability to provide any timely medical care. Shame on Smith!”

Others claimed that Smith’s health services helped them through a tough situation.

“I genuinely would not be here if not for health services being there during a severe mental health episode,” said a signee named Sophie. “Removing a position due to budget cuts is dangerous and shows a lack of disregard and care for the students.”

According to the MNA, 10 medical team members sent a letter May 10 to the Smith College president, dean of the college, vice president of Finance, Dean of Students, and Kris Evans, LICSW, director of Schact Center for Health and Wellness.

“Nurses truly form the bedrock of our care,” the medical team members wrote to college administrators on May 10. “Elimination of this RN position will inevitably increase risk to Smith College by reducing safeguards that help keep our most vulnerable students safe and able to stay on campus.”

Smith College did not respond to a request for comment.

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