The Rock Hill and Clover school districts’ new medication policy will be an inconvenience for both parents and doctors at the start. We hope that once the requirements become more familiar to all, much of the hassle will decrease.
Until this year, school nurses had considerable latitude in dispensing over-the-counter drugs to students for various ailments. But under a new policy adopted in both districts, no medication – not even an over-the-counter pain pill – can be given to students without the permission of a doctor.
“Water and air,” was how Keith Wilks, executive director of student services in the Rock Hill school district, put it. “That’s all they can give.”
That probably includes frozen water to ice down a minor injury. The only other notable exception is EpiPens, which can be used to deliver a large dose of epinephrine to a student in danger of going into anaphylactic shock as a result of a bee sting or other acute allergic reaction.
Parents, no doubt, were used to getting a doctor’s permission to stock their children’s prescription drugs at school. But asking a doctor for a permission slip for an ibuprofen tablet is something new.
The policy not only requires an effort on the part of parents, it also has placed a new burden on office staff at local doctors’ offices. And some, no doubt, will charge extra for the additional service, which is only fair.
In some respects, the policy seems overly cautious. Why shouldn’t nurses be able to give a Tylenol or Orajel to a student whose braces are bothering him? Why not antiseptic and a bandage for a minor scratch or lotion for poison ivy? Haven’t school nurses been doing that for decades?
But we also understand that schools want to avoid any potential legal problems associated with giving a child medicine. If a student has an adverse reaction to medicine provided by a school nurse, the school could be held liable.
Most school nurses are qualified to administer medicine, including prescription drus, and provide first aid. But they aren’t doctors and they shouldn’t be placed in situations where they are supposed to diagnose an illness or treat a potentially serious injury.
That’s asking for a lawsuit.
We also are sympathetic regarding the issue mentioned by Robin Brown, Fort Mill’s district school nurse. She noted that before a more restrictive policy was in place, when she could hand out a variety of over-the-counter remedies, students got the idea that there was a pill for every problem.
That is not the message schools should be sending. Sometimes water and air actually are the best remedies.
And if an ailment or injury is too serious to be fixed by an over-the-counter pill, it’s time to call the doctor.
Despite the inconvenience to parents and doctors, the no-pill policy probably is not only legally safer for schools but also physically safer for students. And with a little forethought, parents can avoid the last-second scramble to call a doctor for permission or pick up their children at school. Parents need to make arrangements with their family physician before an emergency arises.
The new policy might be difficult at first but we predict everyone will get used to it soon enough.