Early graduation option lets School of Medicine students work during pandemic

School of Nursing students can volunteer to temporarily join state's health care workforce

Responding to Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb's executive order, the Indiana University Board of Trustees has approved a request to let IU School of Medicine allow fourth-year students to voluntarily elect to graduate early to bolster the state's health care workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic surge in Indiana.

The IU School of Medicine library at nightView print quality image
IU medical students can graduate early and nursing students can volunteer during the pandemic, per an executive order. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

"We are grateful for our IU School of Medicine students' resiliency in a time of great change," said Dr. Bradley Allen, senior associate dean for medical student education and an infectious disease expert. "Our primary goal as educators is to keep our students safe and informed, and ensure they are well-prepared to enter our profession. We are thankful to all our learners considering the opportunity to graduate early and fully support all our students in this personal decision."

The school's decision followed Holcomb's March 30 announcement that the state is creating accommodations to allow senior students in medical, nursing and other health professions schools to graduate early.

Medical students who volunteer for this opportunity will graduate April 15, after which they will be temporarily employed by a health care facility that has reached out to the state or IU School of Medicine indicating a need.

Students who prefer to continue on their current schedule for graduation can do so and do not need to take any additional steps, with recognition that this is a fully voluntary and personal decision.

A virtual graduation is planned for May 15 and will be available to all graduates, regardless of the time of their graduation.

In response to Holcomb's executive order, IU School of Nursing students can volunteer to temporarily join the state's health care workforce to help combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nursing student volunteers fall into one of two categories. The first group is seniors who have completed their coursework and clinical requirements. They will apply for and be issued a 90-day temporary license and postpone taking the state licensing exam. Students at earlier stages of their nursing education will respond directly to an Indiana Department of Health survey administered to all nursing students across nursing schools in Indiana to volunteer in ways that match their level of training and education.

"Leaders at the IU School of Nursing have been working to develop guidelines and share critical research findings that will enable nursing students to work safely if they choose to volunteer," IU School of Nursing Dean Robin Newhouse said. "The essential and central contribution of nurses during the pandemic response is complex as well as physically and mentally demanding 24 hours a day. We are very proud of our graduates already serving in various health settings on the front lines of this crisis. It is clear to us that our nursing students are ready to help and will rise to meet the health care needs of patients."