INDIANAPOLIS — A partnership between IU Health and Indianapolis Public Schools that provided nurses to 19 schools is ending with this school year.

The three-year contract began in 2021. According to a statement from IU Health, ongoing staffing challenges and “additional pressures” impacted their ability to continue the program.

IPS let parents and students know in a March posting on the district website with a list of schools impacted. Eighteen out of the 19 schools serve elementary-age students.

Butler Lab School 60 is one of the schools losing an IU Health nurse. Allie Reeves’ kids go there.

”I don’t think they need her all that often, but when they do it’s been great to have someone there,” Reeves said. “Little things like Band-Aids and ice packs, and just someone to check in on your kid when you’re not there is nice.”

IU Health said nurses will finish out the school year, but the partnership will not be continued next year.

Reeves worries about going back to how it was before 2021, when there was no school nurse at Butler Lab School 60, and the front desk attendant took care of nurse duties.

”He was signing in guests, opening the front door, giving kids ice packs, Band-Aids, literally doing it all,” Reeves said.

Andrea Tanner with the Indiana Association of School Nurses said that situation is not unheard of, but it’s important to have a qualified school nurse in the building.

”School nurses are expected to be experts in a lot of different things from education to health policy to emergency response,” Tanner said.

Especially for kids who have chronic diseases and need help managing them – something someone without training could not do.

“It’s critical for students who may experience emergencies during the school day, illnesses during the school day,” Tanner said.

Reeves said neither of her students have chronic diseases, but she knows there are students at the school who do.

”In those situations, if my child had a more serious issue, it would be important for sure,” Reeves said.

Finding school nurses is tough nowadays, though. Tanner said they’re facing a shortage for a variety of reasons from job expectations to salary.

”For a lot of nurses, they would be leaving specialties or leaving positions that pay much more than school nursing positions,” she said.

Indiana law does not require each school to have a trained nurse. Tanner said a variety of people with different skillsets fill the role.

”Those models may include the use of health aids, non-nurse personnel, LPNs, registered nurses, bachelors-prepared school nurse and even masters-prepared school nurses or beyond,” Tanner said.

Neither IPS or IU Health were available for an interview on this story.

IU Health sent a statement you can find at the bottom of this article. An IPS spokesperson referred us to a post on the district website from March and said they had no other updates.

In the statement, IPS said it is working to figure out who will fill those school nursing positions next year. IU Health said it’s working with IPS to find alterative solutions and is willing to extend services into the new school year if necessary.

Reeves is still worried about the chances of her kids’ school having a nurse next school year.

“I mean, it would be great, but I can’t see them following through,” Reeves said.

A full copy of the statement from IPS can be found on the district website.

Here is the full statement from IU Health:

IU Health entered a contract with IPS for a three-year school nursing pilot program in 2021. The ongoing statewide staffing challenges and additional pressures have impacted our ability to continue the IPS school nurse pilot program. We understand the vital role that school nurses play in ensuring the health and safety of students. We are working in close partnership with IPS to find alternative solutions and ensure a seamless transition for student care.  IU Health will continue to manage nursing services through the current school year, and we have likewise expressed a willingness to extend services into the new school year if necessary to avoid any potential disruption in care.

Melissa Cash, Vice President-Retail Health and Employer Solutions, Indiana University Health