Inside the Nurse’s Hallway: A look at medical leave


The Nurse’s Hallway at LFA. Photo by Shylee Saladi

Shylee Saladi and Gemma Fink

 Lake Forest Academy has recently seen an influx of students seeking mental health related help from its Health Services Department, leading to an increased workload for the faculty who work in the school’s health wing. This situation is far from unique, and as School Counsellor Jennifer Madelely stated, “It’s consistent to what we are seeing throughout the country.”

   LFA’s Health Services Department is tucked away from the rest of its campus, located in several rooms spanning a narrow hallway. The space—though small—is filled with colourful pillows and posters that turn claustrophobic into cozy. The health services faculty at LFA have turned their limited space into a place where students can feel welcome and comfortable.     

   The recent rise in student drop-ins to the health centre, and more specifically, to the school counsellors’ offices, has led to the hallway’s often overcrowding. Between the students passing through on their way to class, and those who are waiting to meet with a counsellor, the Health Services Department has definitely had its fair share of traffic. 

   Often, students schedule regular cycle meetings with one of the two School Counselors. In many cases, these meetings are a precursor to a student’s decision to take a short-term medical leave from LFA. There are a number of high-school students enrolled in partial hospitalisation programs across the greater Chicago area, not just students from LFA.

   The LFA team extends their support by allowing every student the opportunity to take only one medical leave during their high school career. As the school’s handbook states, if a student’s health situation demands another intensive pause, the student “will be dropped from Lake Forest Academy classes and required to withdraw for the remainder of the semester.”

   This policy, combined with general stigma surrounding mental health, contributes to an environment in which many students are hesitant to seek help out of fear that they might hinder their progress at school.

   A short term medical leave is, at most,a total of 20 class days. Many mental health programs are in place to get a student back into school as soon as they can. Each day of the program includes; time to do homework, group therapy, skills they can learn for school, and an assortment of fun activities at the end of the day that relate to the skill they learned.

   According to LFA’s Handbook, if a long term mental health medical leave is needed, “the family will determine whether the student will complete that semester’s work somewhere else or wait until the following year to repeat the grade.” There is the possibility that LFA can hold back a student in order for them to receive the treatment they need. The Academic Dean and the Dean of Students will determine if the students’ re-enrollment can happen after the students’ team and themselves feel that they are ready to return.

   Lake Forest Academy boasts two school therapists at the community’s disposal, yet between teaching classes and trying to meet the increased needs of the students, their available time is very limited.