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Nurses’ medication policy puts students at risk, parents say

October 13th, 2009

Gianna DeLorenzo, 7, Orange County Register photoFrom the Orange County Register (with video):

A recent policy change by California’s nursing board is endangering the lives of students by withholding medication needed to quell potentially life-threatening seizures, say parents and epilepsy advocates.

A directive issued by the board last month says no school staff except registered nurses can administer Diastat, and that schools must call 911 for assistance if no nurse is available.

Orange County dad Pat DeLorenzo said he had been told that staff members at his daughter’s public school were trained to administer the medication. But the directive by the state Board of Registered Nursing meant that his 7-year-old daughter, Gianna (above), had to wait more than five minutes for paramedics when she had a seizure in class recently.  “My daughter could have been dead by then,” he said, noting that the seizure ended before emergency personnel arrived.

… A spokeswoman for the American Nurses Association says the state nursing board was simply affirming California laws that prohibit unlicensed individuals like school staff from practicing medicine – and trying to shield nurses from unwarranted liability.

… Medical experts and epilepsy advocates say that prohibiting non-licensed school staff from administering Diastat is dangerous because of the time it can take for paramedics to arrive on scene. In a worst-case scenario, a seizure that is not stopped in a timely manner with Diastat could cause permanent brain injury or even death, potentially in a matter of minutes.

,,, “We need to have a change in legislation so the misinterpretation (of state law) can go away,” said Judith Pennella, executive director of the Epilepsy Alliance of Orange County.

Orange County’s school districts employ only 249 nurses for nearly 600 schools. In the state of California, the ratio is 2,500 students per school nurse.

(Orange County Register photo)

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