Living With and Learning About Asthma on the College Campus
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In 2016, the American College Health Association (ACHA) reported that 8.9% of college students indicated having an asthma diagnosis. Previous studies have shown that college students’ quality of life is diminished by asthma symptoms which affect their self-esteem and academic performance. When asthmatic students transition to a college campus, they may be ill-equipped to self-manage their asthma due to a lack of proper education, misinformation from their primary care physician, or lack of acceptance of the chronic nature of their disease. In addition, students with a chronic illness often struggle with competence in self-management, confidence in self-advocacy, and the transition to adult health care. The main purpose of this qualitative instrumental case study was to gain insight into how college students with asthma learn from their experiences to self-manage their asthma and the strategies they utilize to cope with asthma on the college campus. In addition, the study’s purpose was to gain knowledge about the perceptions and attitudes of the healthcare providers, employed at the student health center of a large public university in the southwest region of the United States, regarding the current state of asthma management on the campus.
Results of this study indicate students with asthma are learning from their lived experiences with asthma on the college campus. However, they desire to learn more about their asthma including the science of what is happening in their lungs with asthma. There is a need for well-written asthma literature directed to the college students’ academic mind-set and well-versed healthcare providers in the art of asthma education to aid the student in learning to better self-manage their asthma. In addition, this study reveals asthmatic students have acquired coping strategies from learned behaviors of living with asthma on a campus with extreme weather conditions, a hilly terrain, and many airborne allergens, all of which threaten to trigger their asthma. And, those students who are transitioning to an adult role have grown more independent from their parents regarding control of their asthma management and are becoming more autonomous with healthcare decision-making.
Regarding the healthcare providers, this study revealed a truly committed group whose collective goal is to improve the health and well-being of students on campus, including those with asthma. Experiential learning was demonstrated by the healthcare providers with most of the actual learning about asthma treatment and management occurring through the daily experience of working with asthmatic students on campus. However, the healthcare providers recognize the following learning needs: (a) additional training in the performance and interpretation of lung function testing, (b) the appropriate incorporation of the national asthma guidelines in the design of asthma treatment plans, and (c) creation of a system in place to identify students on campus with asthma. Furthermore, the challenge of healthcare providers in providing optimal asthma care for students is influenced by time constraints, the exorbitant cost of asthma medications, and establishing a trusting relationship between the healthcare provider and the student/patient.