Provinces and schools have their own policies and guidelines for medication protocols, but understanding students’ health needs and medications, and providing a safe space for them should they need to take medication at school, is a concern at the classroom level. This article is meant to give classroom teachers some information and confidence in caring for their students’ medical needs.
Helping students adhere to their medication protocols during school time requires open communication with parents, school staff and the students themselves. Children with chronic conditions require access to their medications at all times—insulin, puffers and Epi-Pens are necessary for students across the country. When it comes to medication at school, safety is of the utmost importance. Where the medication is stored, and where and when it will be administered, should be discussed among teachers, the parents and the student. Medication adherence is made seamless and safe when all caregivers are on the same page, especially for younger children.
While good adherence and medication safety start at home and with conversations with the student’s family and doctor, school administrators should not be afraid to ask questions regarding the student’s health and medication. As school policies differ, these rules and guidelines should be communicated to the parents.
It’s first important to establish who at the school will administer the medication and where it will be stored. For example, if the medication must be secured at the teacher’s desk or in the admin office and not on the student, parents should know who will keep it and where. If the person administering the medication is not the teacher, parents should also be informed who will be the administrator. If there are any changes to the student’s medication routine or health, parents should share this with the school as soon as possible.
Students should have an understanding of their condition and their medications and why they need to take them. It’s important to have them involved in their medication plans to help them feel comfortable, especially if they must take medications outside of their home. Explaining to students that their medication is their own and should be kept to themselves is a good way to ensure they don’t let friends or classmates accidentally get their hands on them. If the child is too young to understand or administer the medication themselves, parents should leave instructions and the medication with the administrator to store safely. Special needs should be kept in mind when school trips and excursions are planned so that the field trip supervisors have the student’s medication on hand.
It’s important to keep all medicine in the original packaging so the student’s name, dosage of medication, frequency of administration and emergency contacts are properly labelled.
Students who are old enough can transport medications for chronic conditions such as puffers or Epi-Pens in easy-to-carry bags, like fanny packs, or they can store them in their backpacks if school policy permits. Medications are typically dispensed with childproof lids, but even if a child can access their medication on their own, it’s a good idea to have an adult manage, or at least supervise, the taking of medication to help ensure it is taken correctly. Of course, students should be aware of the schedule and dosage, so that they can play a role in their own care.
Most schools have policies for food allergies, and students are often familiar with sensitivities their fellow classmates have, but the same understanding is not always associated with chronic conditions and regular medication intake. Guidelines should be clearly communicated to all parents, who can then explain the importance of being understanding and open-minded about conditions their children’s friends and classmates have. Medical or chronic conditions can be explained to all students in a way that is appropriate for the age group. For example, if a student has a nut or food allergy and requires an Epi-Pen, teachers can simply explain that the student’s body ingests food differently than other people’s.
Keeping kids informed both at home and at school encourages dialogue should they have any questions, and parents, teachers and administrators should also let the students know that it’s OK to speak up if something doesn’t seem right with their medication. Providing a safe space where all students know they can get support with their medication or health will keep them adherent to their required dosage and help them make healthier choices.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Edwin Ho is the Senior Manager of Pharmacy Operations, Western Canada for Express-Scripts.ca, one of the country’s leading providers of health benefits management services. Edwin has been practising pharmacy for more than 15 years and lives in BC with his family.
This article is from Canadian Teacher Magazine’s Winter 2019 issue.