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Student Health and Wellness drivers talk requirements, perks of the job

McKynley Larson ’21, a SHAW driver, transports student patients. Photo by Isabelle Torrence.

By Edo Biluar

It’s no secret that college students living in close proximity to one another get sick often. The nurse-practitioners at the Student Health and Wellness (SHAW) office located in the forum building can provide the first step in treating minor illnesses, but sometimes students require more than SHAW can offer. That’s where the SHAW drivers come into play.

The job of a SHAW driver is to drive students to and from the various medical centers, hospitals, mental health centers and pharmacies around Grinnell. The program is not a new one–Deb Shill, director of health services and interim director of mental health services for the College, said that the program has been here since she came to Grinnell 12 years ago.

The program serves to make sure that students without their own transportation options can get the proper treatment they need. SHAW drivers are held up to a variety of standards and requirements that each must meet in order to be hired and stay employed. 

They must have a valid U.S. based driver’s license, be at least 19 years of age, and have no moving violations on their license from within the last two years. 

In addition, prospective drivers must also pass a driver’s test issued by the college, according to Esmé Kayim-Yanko ’21, a SHAW driver. Perhaps the aspect of the job that most reflects its seriousness, though, is the high value the program places on confidentiality.

“We don’t mess around with confidentiality,” Shill said. “It’s important for students to know that it’s taken very seriously.”

Anything said in the SHAW van—or anywhere within SHAW, for that matter—cannot be repeated by the student who knows the information. In Kayim-Yanko’s words, “It’s not for me to share.”

The confidentiality rules exist at least in part to help students feel comfortable being driven by their fellow students. 

Kayim-Yanko explained that she and other SHAW drivers aren’t supposed to ask why a person is going where they’re going, nor pressure them into talking. If, however, a student is for whatever reason uncomfortable being driven by a student, they are able to have a SHAW staff member drive them instead.

The job is one that the students largely enjoy. 

“It’s a good job. I like the drive. Staff are friendly, I think. And it’s just like another thing to do on campus” said Will Dubow ’21. “It’s like a nice little break from school work.

Both Dubow and Kayim-Yanko said that they enjoy meeting all the people who they get to drive through the service. In addition to knowing more faces around campus, both students also mentioned the opportunity to do homework while waiting for a drive request as another perk of the job.

Shill also said that students hoping to be hired by SHAW for the program should ideally be kind and comforting to the people they drive.

Ultimately, Kayim-Yanko, Dubow and Shill all share similar sentiments that the job is an enjoyable one, even though it can be intensive in its policies. 

As a testament to how much students enjoy driving for SHAW, Shill said, “The students that apply for these jobs tend to stay with us the whole time they’re here.”

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