Who Should Give Insulin in School?

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Every few years, controversy erupts about who should be allowed to give insulin to children with diabetes. Last November, a California judge ruled that only school nurses, not teachers or other staff trained to do the job, could give insulin injections to students in the state. This ruling followed a couple of lawsuits: First, a group of parents in the San Francisco Bay area sued their school districts and the state Department of Education so that nonmedical staff could give their children insulin. They filed the suit in federal court, arguing that their children’s right to an education was abridged because schools did not have enough medical staff on hand.

However, when the Department of Education issued new rules allowing other trained staff members to give injections, the California School Nurses Association and other groups sued, arguing that the rules violated the California Nursing Practice Act. The November ruling is the outcome of this suit. As a result, according to a recent article in the San Jose Mercury News, many parents whose children need assistance with insulin now must drive to their child’s school — or even pull their child out of school — while the state scrambles to hire more nurses. As of 2007 (when the first lawsuit was settled), on any given day, only 30% of California schools had a nurse in the building because of shared duties at multiple schools.

The Web site InsideBayArea.com ran opposing essays on this topic in December, with a piece supporting the judge’s ruling written by Dale Parent, president of the California School Nurses Association, and a piece opposing the outcome written by Dr. Francine Kaufman, a pediatric endocrinologist and former president of the American Diabetes Association. (The American Diabetes Association supported the Department of Education in the lawsuit.)

What do you think? Should trained nonmedical staff be allowed to give students insulin? Or is there too great a risk of error? Is it all right for schools not to have a nurse on hand? Leave a comment below!

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