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Chambersburg schools reviewing policy on dispensing medicine to students

May 13, 2010|By JENNIFER FITCH

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - The Chambersburg Area School Board is reviewing a policy that would mean school nurses couldn't give students over-the-counter medications without a medication order from their doctors. Parents would have to send in the medications, which wouldn't be stocked in the nurses' offices.

A "student could no longer come down to the nurse's office and say, 'I have a headache,' and the nurse, at the nurse's discretion, give the student a Tylenol," Assistant Superintendent Eric Michael said.

The policy will be put on the school board's agenda for a decision in the coming weeks.

Under the Pennsylvania Nurse Practice acts, nurses cannot give any medication not ordered by a physician. Documents presented to the school board stated that includes over-the-counter medications, including cough drops.

"It's the laws we operate under and those supersede any other laws," Head Nurse Donna Rock said.

For 2009-10, the district obtained standing orders from area physicians stating all their patients could have common, over-the-counter medications, Rock said. Before that, a physician acting on behalf of the whole district wrote a standing order for everyone, she said.

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"We're requesting it be individualized on a case-by-case basis," Rock said.

Nurses have increased demands because of students with complex health issues, such as diabetes, muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy and ADD/ADHD, according to Rock.

The larger elementary schools and secondary schools have 40 to 70 students using health services daily, Rock said. Approximately 27 licensed practical nurses and registered nurses are in the buildings, she said.

Rock said she wasn't sure how other Franklin County, Pa., schools were handling over-the-counter medications. She said Central Dauphin School District in the Harrisburg, Pa., area has not used standing orders for years.

The proposed changes could cut down on the school district's legal liability, Michael said.

"It would eliminate standing orders," he said. "Also, I think it'd eliminate some of the frivolous visits to the nurse's office."

If enacted, the changes will be communicated to families through letters later this year, newsletters, Web communications and the local media, according to district spokeswoman Sylvia Rockwood.

It "sounds logistically like a nightmare and, in some ways, it is," Michael said, saying the nurses would use existing student accounting programs.

He said that the way the policy is now, if a student requests an over-the-counter medication and doesn't have a standing order, sometimes the school will contact a parent for him or her to bring in the medication and administer it. The nurse might also fax a standing order form to the student's doctor to be completed and returned by fax.

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