Under-the-weather BYU students are more likely to attend class than take a sick day because of a fear of harming their grade, according to BYU family practitioner Keith Willmore and other faculty on campus. This mindset can actually lead to lower performance in school because of a deficiency of recuperation time.
Willmore, medical director at the BYU Student Health Center, said students have more options than they are aware of when working with the health center to help deal with class absences because of illness.
“I think a lot of students are mistaken,” Willmore said. “They think they just have to push through it. If they’re really sick, they’re not going to remember the things they learned and they are not going to perform as well.”
Willmore advised students to consider backing off credit-wise and taking an easier load for the rest of the semester. He said with the competitiveness found in college, students are afraid to drop classes and at times are overwhelmed with the pressure to overload their schedules.
“Take enough time to do well enough in your classes so you can enjoy life,” Willmore said. “What’s the rush? Take the time to do things right. There’s nothing wrong with taking five or six years getting through college if you’re doing it well.”
Along with Willmore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourage students to stay home when sick to prevent diseases from spreading.
Karen Evans, a licensed psychologist and university advisement center director, shared her insight on the negative effects students have while trying to keep up in school and not fully recovering from an illness.
“It’s more difficult to focus, you’re more tired so your brain works a little slower,” Evans said.
Sara Van Tuyl, a senior majoring in history teaching, said she, like other students, has attended school while sick mostly to receive attendance credit from her professors.
“I had food poisoning once and I couldn’t miss class,” Tuyl said. “I needed the money so I went to work. I didn’t pay attention in my classes and was half asleep in all of them.”
She said going to work and class sick is difficult and she has experienced getting even more sick as a result from others contagiously interacting with her. However, she said sometimes it is worth going.
“If there wasn’t going to be a big penalty it would be worth staying home to recuperate,” Tuyl said.
Evans said “taking it slow” is key when recovering from an illness. She said an illness could get worse if not given the proper treatment or attention. She also said delaying recovery can affect others and cause difficulty.
“Think of the turtle and the hare: progress is slow,” Evans said. “Instead of crashing and burning, you have to factor that in and take it slower.”
Megan Kennedy, a Women’s Services and Resources nutrition and wellness specialist, said some students fail to give themselves the proper time to rejuvenate because they fear missing a day will put them behind on schoolwork.
“It’s kind of like a vicious cycle,” Kennedy said. “Something minor can turn worse. Something you can take down in a day or two can make the situation worse.”
She said there is a balance with performance and stress.
“Your body is stressed,” Kennedy said. “It’s under more pressure, and it weakens your immune system further. If you’re pushing it too hard, you’re making it worse.”
Evans emphasized speaking with professors when dealing with long-term illness. She said communicating with the professors before class starts may or may not excuse a student from class because of illness, but realizing when to call in sick can prevent any further sick days.
“BYU is a very demanding school and it is very competitive,” Evans said. “Stay current with your classes, and if you become ill, it won’t be as detrimental.”