Home Away from Home
Moving away for university while managing a chronic illness can seem like a massive undertaking, especially if you are in the process of transitioning from paediatric to adult care at the same time. Aside from deciding which posters you'll hang on your dorm wall, there are a myriad of other disease specific factors to consider, such as which pharmacy you will pick up your prescription medication from and whether you are going to transfer to a local rheumatologist or stick with your hometown practitioner. In the hopes of helping you navigate this exciting time of life, I've outlined the strategy I used when I moved to Montreal, Quebec from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to attend McGill University.
Before becoming overwhelmed by what appears to be a mountain of tasks to complete before packing up and embarking on your next adventure, I would strongly advise taking a deep breath and dedicating a day to writing down all your care requirements. Find a cute coffee shop, bring a notebook, and devote a couple of hours to reviewing your treatment plan and what each component requires. If you take pills, note that you will need a pharmacy in your new city; if you take biologics that are shipped to you, note that you will need a shipping address, as well as a refrigerator for storage. No detail should be overlooked; to create a plan to meet your care needs, you must first identify all your required services and resources.
You have two options for how to proceed: you can find a new rheumatologist in your new city, in which case you should speak with your current provider about arranging a referral, or you can keep your hometown provider and have them write a medical history summary for you to bring with you in case you require medical attention in your new province. In either case, I would additionally ask for printed copies of all your prescriptions and standing order lab requisitions so that you have them on hand while you are away.
After you've identified all the services and resources you'll require, consider how each one will be paid for. Most services are covered by insurance, but as an adult, you may no longer be covered under your parent's plan. So, check to see if you are, and if not, make arrangements to purchase a new insurance plan that covers the services you require. Most parent plans will allow you to stay on them until you graduate from university, but this is not always the case, so it is important to check. Furthermore, investigate how the various provincial systems handle billing for the services you will use while you are there. Some provinces require you to pay for services out of pocket when you receive them, and then submit the receipts to your province of residence. Now that you've determined which services and resources you'll require and how they will be paid for, you can start looking for a new pharmacy and clinics in your new neighbourhood.
While this guide to moving provinces as a young adult is not exhaustive of all the details that make a successful move, I hope it makes beginning the process less daunting. You will undoubtedly encounter challenges along the way, but keep in mind that there are many resources available to help you out, support groups and additional tools to help you navigate this new and exciting stage of your life.
Best of luck. You’ve got this!