School Nursing Legal Questions and Answers

by Howard Gerber on January 11, 2018

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school nurse legal questionsWorking 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.

Are you at a higher risk of liability working as a school nurse than in a medical facility?

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. It’s essential school nurses provide care according to school policies, stay within their scope of practice, and document everything thoroughly.

If you attend an out of state field trip, do you need a multistate nursing license?

Many nurses have a multistate 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.

Does FERPA protect all school health records?

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. 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 medical 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.

Can non-nurses administer medication to students?

In all states, nurses are allowed to administer medication to students in a school setting. When it comes to non-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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