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Bishop Wellness hires nurse practitioner; Medical services to resume in spring

Alan Cohen

Staff Writer

Photo from the Willamette University website

On Aug. 1, students and families were struck by an email from the Director of Bishop Wellness Center Don Thomson stating that all on-campus medical services were being disrupted due to “unforeseen staff departures at the end of the spring semester and early July, leaving us without any medical health providers (nurse practitioner or physician) to staff our clinic.” Nearly two months later, Willamette University announced the hiring of a new Lead Nurse Practitioner, with medical services resuming shortly.

In an interview, Thomson stated that last year, “Bishop Wellness Center had a nurse practitioner at 32 hours a week, a medical assistant supporting the nurse practitioner at 40 hours a week and a part-time consulting doctor at 9 hours a week.” The consulting physician and nurse practitioner gave notice of their leave halfway through and right after the spring semester, respectively. He also stated that the reason for their leave was purely professional, as they “moved on to bigger and better things.” Last year’s medical assistant is still working at Bishop Wellness Center.

The disruption in medical services caused by the staff departures has not affected counseling services, which continue to operate normally, despite [issues of their own].

“In a post-Covid world, hiring medical providers has become very difficult,” Thomson mentioned. This staffing issue is not specific to Willamette or other institutions, as the supply of medical professionals has declined substantially at a national level.

“We enlisted the help of an executive search firm because we knew we were going into a profoundly competitive hiring market,” he continued. The application was open to nurse practitioners, physicians and physician assistants, as their licenses allow them to order lab tests and prescribe medications. The incentives for the position, according to Thomson, included a generous benefit package with health, dental and life insurance, as well as contributions of 10% of the salary to the employee’s retirement plan.

As recently [posted on the Willamette University website], the new medical provider is Lauren Carlson, a board-certified nurse practitioner with more than a decade of experience in the medical field who has worked for Santiam Memorial Hospital in Stayton, Oregon and at Corban University. Her biography defines her as “passionate about health equity, social justice, lifestyle medicine, and relationship building.”

“I really can’t overstate how excited she is to join us, she is really looking forward to coming onboard,” Thomson stated. He added that what most attracted Carlson to the position was working in a setting where college students are navigating healthcare on their own for the first time.

Carlson will start working part-time and then transition to full-time medical services in the spring. Her schedule and availability for the fall semester are yet to be announced. Bishop Wellness Center is no longer seeking new health professionals, as medical needs will soon be fully met by Carlson and her medical assistant, who will also be working full-time starting in the spring.

As Bishop Wellness Center prepares to welcome Carlson to the team and resume normal operations, students are expected to make use of [external medical resources] for their physical health needs and medication refills. Bishop Wellness Center can be reached at (503) 370-6062 for any questions or guidance.

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