Administration of Medication: Rights and Risks

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A Question of Access

Section 8 of the School Act states that every child of school age “is entitled to have access . . . to an education program.” Section 13(1) of the act stipulates that children between the ages of 6 and 16 “shall attend school.” One implication of these provisions is that children with medical needs are entitled to attend school. Another is that the board (and probably the principal) is obliged to provide for the medical needs of these children so that they can attend school.

A Question of Safety/Duty of Care

Because students have an obligation to attend school, school boards (together with principals, teachers and support staff) have a corresponding obligation to provide a safe environment for them. Principals have an obligation to organize teaching and support staff in a school in such a way that medical care is available if a student requires it in order to attend school or if an emergency arises.

Teachers (who have responsibilities to other students) should not be expected to abandon the group to focus on administering medication safely to an individual student.

A Question of Liability

From a liability perspective, a person who administers medical care must be able to provide dedicated service, which means that the person must not have any other duties or distractions. By definition, teachers and principals cannot meet this standard. Therefore, the provision of medical care must be assigned to support staff. Further, a physician must have indicated that the school must provide such care. Assigned support staff must receive training in the administering of that care.

Necessary Considerations

To protect students, teachers and others, school boards should develop sound, comprehensive policy governing the administration of medication. Among the conditions that should be set out in the policy are these:

  • Medications should be stored in original labelled containers; access to the containers must be restricted.
  • Medications should have clear, original directions from a medical provider on how they are to be used.
  • Someone must be available who knows how and when to administer the medication and what adverse effects to watch for.
  • Dedicated time should be set aside and a private space designated for administering the medication.
  • Those assigned to administer medication must be allowed to set aside their other responsibilities so that they can focus exclusively on carrying out this high-risk activity.
  • Those who administer medication should carefully log such details as dosages, times, witnesses and reactions.
  • Those who are required to administer medication must have a statement in writing from the employing board that it is an expected duty and they are covered by insurance when carrying out this task.

Advice to Teachers

The Association’s view is that teachers are educators, not health care providers. Teachers should protest any directive that requires them to put themselves or anyone else at risk. Such protests should be made in writing, should describe the educational and safety concerns involved, and should include a statement to the effect that the writer refuses to accept liability for unsafe conditions resulting from the directives of others. Teachers who need help in drafting a protest should contact the Association.

Caution

Advice in this brochure is general and may not address all aspects of a particular situation. Teachers should always call Member Services at the Association for confidential advice on how to handle a specific situation. Contact information is on the back of this brochure.