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Could School Nursing Cuts Be Putting Your Child at Risk for Medical Error?

Schools often lack the safeguards against medication errors that are routinely used in hospitals and other health care facilities. To further compound the problem, due to layoffs of school nurses, medications are now increasingly being dispensed by individuals with no medical training, including principals, gym teachers, and secretaries. This can increase the risk for error by three times according to one study.

The risk of medication error is alarming given that a growing number of children take medicine while at school, whether it is for diabetes, ADHD, or a food allergy. In fact, a University of Iowa survey of school nurses revealed that during a typical day 5.6 percent of children receive medication in school.

According to the same study, medication errors were reported by 48.5 percent of the nurses, most of which were associated with skipped doses (79.7 percent). More serious errors included giving medications to the wrong child, giving children the wrong medications, or giving medications at the wrong time or by the wrong route. The study showed that 75 percent of these medications were not administered by nurses but by unlicensed school staff.

With this in mind, here are some tips from Consumermedsafety.org:

  • As much as possible, parents should try to avoid sending medications to the school for staff to administer. If a medication must be given, work with the child’s pediatrician to try to avoid doses that would be required during the school day. For example, some medications have a long acting form that could be given before or after school as an option.
  • If your child must take medication during the school day, ask what the school is doing to prevent medication mix-ups.
  • Provide a picture of your child with any medications that must be administered during school hours to help promote proper identification.
  • If providing the school with medication equipment like inhalers or pens used to administer insulin or epinephrine, don’t assume school staff know how to use it. Take the time to write out instructions and go over them with school staff.
  • Also, older children should receive basic information about medicines and their proper use, and know to question anything that doesn’t seem right.
  • Parents should make sure that any changes in medications or dose, including discontinuation of medications, are immediately communicated to the school staff.

If you or someone you care about has suffered serious harm due to a medication mistake or other medical error, you may be entitled to compensation, such as pain and suffering damages and reimbursement of medical expenses. For more information, please contact a San Diego medical malpractice attorney at the Law Offices of Robert Vaage for a free consultation.