Legal Issues Facing School Nurses

by Howard Gerber on September 23, 2019

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school nurse legal questions

Working as a school nurse is a lot different than other settings, such as a hospital, nursing home, or rehabilitation center. If you’re new to school nursing, you may have some questions about liability and other legal concerns. Below are some common questions and answers regarding school nursing.

What Are Liability Differences Between a School Nurse and a Hospital Nurse?

School nurses may be at a higher risk of liability due to the nature of their work environment. It’s important to understand, schools are not sued due to medical negligence often, but it does happen.

Unlike hospitals and other healthcare facilities, school nurses are often the only licensed medical professional onsite. Because school nurses are in charge of providing care, they often take on the bulk of the responsibility, which also means more liability. Its essential school nurses provide care according to school policies, stay within their scope of practice, and document everything thoroughly.

While hospital nurses typically see patients that vary in age, school nurses work with student-specific populations. School nurses are often tasked with taking on proactive measures to ensure students as well as their parents are informed and equipped with proper health information to help them succeed. This can include screenings (such as hearing and vision), vaccination information and keeping track of students’ medical information (such as immunization records). In addition, school nurses are also responsible for developing care plans and administering medication regularly as needed.

What is a Multi-State or Nursing License Compact (NLC)?

A multi-stateor compactnursing license allows nurses to practice in multiple states. Many nurses have a multi-state license. If you don’t, be sure to check with your district and determine if they have a policy on student care during school-sponsored field trips. According to the National Association of School Nurses, it’s advisable for school nurses to research laws in the state they plan to travel to and make sure they are covered legally to provide student care.

  • Some states or school districts require an additional Department of Education Certification. This usually just involves completing an application. Contact the Department of Education for the state you are looking to work in for more information on what is required to work in a school setting.

What Does FERPA Protect?

The question of whether school health records are protected by FERPA or HIPAA gets complicated. FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It is a federal law that protects the privacy of student’s education records, and it sometimes covers health records. Specifically, FERPA protects education information, personally identifiable information and directly information. Under FERPA, parents have the right to access their child’s education records as well as the ability to request changes where necessary. This act seeks to protect that fact. Once a student turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, those rights are then transferred to the student.

HIPAA is the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, and it too protects some health records. Typically, if student’s health records are not protected under FERPA, they are protected under HIPAA. Why does this matter? You need to know which act protects student’s privacy, so that you follow laws regarding practices, disclosures, and sharing information with other healthcare providers. Be sure to ask your district, which act protects student’s health records to comply with the law.

Do School Administrators Have The Right To View Student’s Health Records?

Other professionals, such as teachers, coaches, and school administrators may need access to a student’s health information. The school official obtaining the information must have a legitimate educational need to access specific data.

Acts such as FERPA and HIPAA protect students education and health records. As mentioned, FERPA provides a students’ parents with the ability to access their records and request changes where necessary. There are exceptions in terms of who has access to a student’s records, however schools are generally prohibited from sharing information about a student unless provided with their parents’ written consent.

on-nurses including teachers and aides, staff administration of medication policies varies by state. Some states have a certain policy, which may include designated staff completing a training course. In other instances, states may not have a policy. Contact your state nursing board to determine policies for staff administration of medication.

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