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Big Rapids, Reed City Districts Share Nurse Through New MedNow Program

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The days of a school nurse are gone in many districts, and you can blame budget issues.

But a pilot program with Spectrum Health is taking what you see as a school nurse and turning it on its head.

It’s allowing two Northern Michigan school districts to have someone, through a telehealth setup.

Both Big Rapids Public Schools and Reed City Area Public Schools have a school nurse for the first time in years.

And it’s all because of a new program with Spectrum Health.

“For years, as long as we can remember we haven’t had a school nurse. So it was a resource that just wasn’t made available to us. And the funding wasn’t available,” said Big Rapids Public Schools Superintendent Tim Haist.

That’s no longer the case — thanks to MedNow.

This school year — Registered Nurse Mary Underhill serves nine different schools.

“We’ve been able to triage a lot of kids this way. Whether they can stay in school for the rest of the school day, whether or not they need to go home right away or whether or not they need to seek medical attention at that time,” Underhill said.

Mary’s available to all the kids who need her, even if she’s not physically in a building.

She can talk to students face-to-face using MedNow technology — and a moveable webcam to examine different body parts.

“We’ve been able to build in a support for our kids that we never had before,” Haist said. “It allowed for peace of mind for our parents and staff in knowing that there’s someone with medical expertise on the other end.”

It helps take the load off secretaries, who used to handle the pressure of making medical calls without a nurse.

“We’re gonna get a full-time nurse for a fraction of what it would normally cost us,” said Reed City Area Public Schools Tim Webster. “She’s not here all the time, but we have access to her all day moving forward.”

For the first year of the program, neither school is paying to participate.

“Now we don’t have to make those decisions as it relates to medical emergencies,” Haist said. “We have someone we can contact who has the training to deal with that.”

Going forward, each district will eventually pay one-quarter of the nurse’s salary — and Spectrum Health will cover the rest.