Student Health Center an Important Resource

Recently a student walked into the CNM Student Health and Wellness Center asking for help. She was in obvious pain. Nurse practitioner and senior clinic director Marti Brittenham promptly examined her. "I told her I thought she was very ill and that I wanted her to go immediately to the emergency room for evaluation,” Brittenham said. “A co-worker took her to the University of New Mexico Hospital.”

Jul 17, 2015

The next morning the student’s supervisor stopped by the clinic to inform Brittenham that if she had not gone to the emergency room when she did, she would have died. The student was being treated aggressively and surgery was being considered.

The same week a girl came in feeling ill, and Brittenham diagnosed her with diabetes. She helped the student find a diabetes educator.

These are just two examples of how the CNM Student Health Center cares for students. While most student visits are more routine – immunizations, asthma attacks, the flu – a handful are dramatic and potentially life-saving.

“Many of our students don’t have health insurance,” Brittenham said. “They can come to our clinic where they get care and treatment at very low prices.”

The Health Center, located on Main Campus in the Student Services Center, Room 206, functions as a primary care office. People come to the center for anything for which they would see a primary care physician. It provides care for acute and chronic illnesses, physical exams, immunizations, family planning services, clinical counseling and referrals – all at rates significantly lower than doctors’ offices and most other clinics. In addition, there are no long waits to get help, and in many cases students can walk in and see a doctor or nurse practitioner within an hour. Appointments, however, are highly encouraged.

Office visits are $15 and vaccinations and lab fees are at the clinic’s discounted costs. Some services, such as clinical counseling, blood pressure screening and over-the counter medications and emergency first aid, are free.

Besides Brittenham, other staff members include a nurse, Patti Haaland, RN, and a counselor, Mary Guild, LPCC, who always has two to four master-level therapy interns. Also, a doctor is on hand one afternoon a week. They see some 650 people a month.

They do all this in a facility that includes three counseling offices, a massage room that seconds as an exam room when needed; a room devoted to exams; an office for the nurse which also serves as the medicine storage space; a small laboratory; a meeting room/kitchen; and Brittenham’s office.

“We do a lot of health care in our small clinic,” Brittenham said.

Brittenham makes sure it is known that the medicine room stores only basic medicines such as Tylenol and asthma medicines. There are no narcotics. If other medicines are needed, the nurse practitioner will prescribe them.

Anyone who is a CNM student is welcome at the clinic, even if they are taking just one class. They can be scheduled to see the doctor if it’s something that Brittenham can’t accommodate or refer elsewhere, like a hospital or specialist.

Brittenham says the busiest time for the clinic is at the beginning of each term. That is when students in the School of Health, Wellness & Public Safety need to get a variety of immunizations before they go into their clinic rotations – working as EMTs in hospitals or ambulances, for example. If it is at all possible, students should try to make appointments for treatment at this time. However, if someone is really sick, Brittenham will see them as quickly as possible.

The clinic purchases its immunizations at a very low cost from the University of New Mexico Student Health Center pharmacy and the savings are passed on to the students. They are charged the same amount that UNM charges the clinic – no mark up.

Brittenham said she tries to make the clinic visible to the students by talking in classes and setting up a table during Welcome Back Days. In October, the Student Health Center has made arrangements for Walgreens to give flu shots at the various CNM campuses. The immunizations are scheduled at the Main Campus Oct. 21 and 22, with the annual CNM Health Fair. Dates for the other campuses are: Montoya, Oct. 23-25; Westside, Oct. 28-29; South Valley, Oct. 30-31; and Workforce Training Center, Nov. 4-5. The immunizations are free for students and employees unless they have insurance. In that case, the insurance company will be billed.

Under the purview of the Health Center is the Wellness Center that is located next door. Students, employees and faculty can use exercise equipment there free of charge. The Wellness Center includes two treadmills, two stair climbers, a stationary recumbent bike, a set of free weights, and a weight set for strength training. Shower rooms are also available. People who use the Wellness Center need to show their CNM identification card and a copy of their class schedule. They will then receive a short orientation before starting to use the Wellness Center.

“Our Student Health Center is CNM’s best kept secret, but we want everyone to know it’s available,” Brittenham said. “I have a good staff and am proud of the work we do. Students I work with might not be able to afford to get care anywhere else.”

For more information about the Student Health Center, go to