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New medical rules considered for Linden schools

When dispensing medication to students in Linden public schools, the one school nurse in the school system was not always available. In the past principals, guidance officers and secretaries have helped give medication to students.

New rules mandated by the state Board of Education and the State Board of Nurses will now formalize the distribution of medicine. Linden system school nurse Carol Arledge will be able to designate and train personnel to dispense medication to students.

Arledge had recently attended a state workshop on the new rules, and she discussed new school medical procedures July 21 with the Linden Board of Education.

The designated person will be called a "School Medication Technician," she said. "They must attend a 24-hour course that is approved and developed by (both state boards)," she said. They must pass a written test and a skills test.

The technicians will be working under the auspices of the school nurse’s medical license. If there is an error, the nurse who trained them "is putting their license on the line," Arledge said.

The people selected to dispense medication to students must be "very confident…trustworthy." She expected the choice of technicians to come from individuals at the various Linden schools who had already been experience dispensing medication. However, "secretaries really do not have the time," she said.

In addition, certain invasive tasks or tasks that involve nursing judgement cannot be performed by this "medication technician" such as injecting medications, calculating dosages, sterile procedures, ventilator care and receiving orders from a licensed subscriber of medicine.

There will also need to be a more private area at individual schools to give medications and for diabetic students to check blood sugar, Arledge said.

To dispense prescription drugs, forms must be signed by physicians and parents. In the case of over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol and Pepto-Bismol, there is a permission form, which must be signed by parents, and the drugs must be provided by the parents in a sealed bottle also labeled with the child’s name. "And it has to be specified what is this medicine to be used for (an example, headache)."

The new HIPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability) privacy laws for patients also complicates the process of doctors faxing back information on students, she said.

The board must also look into adding liability insurance for any nurses or technicians.

The new medication guidelines must be approved before school starts, and the board is expected to act at the next board meeting.

The board also voted July 21 to advertise for an aide/licensed practical nurse for the Linden system.