ALLERGY SHOTS: Nurses to Train Nonmedical Staff in L.A. Schools
Nurses in the Los Angeles Unified School District will train nonmedical staff how to administer allergy shots to students when they are "struck with a severe allergic reaction," the Los Angeles Times reports. Previously, the 722,000-student district relied on the nine district physicians to train staff to provide a shot of epinephrine, the standard medication for serious allergic reaction to food or an insect sting. At a cost of $30,000, all 580 district nurses and 65 substitute nurses will be trained to administer the shot by the end of the month, and they will be responsible for training nonmedical staff. The change comes in response to the increasing number of students with a doctor's order to receive the shot if necessary. Three years ago, less than 30 students in LAUSD needed to have the shot on hand, while last year, 164 students needed the medication in case of an allergic reaction, according to Karen Maiorca, director of nursing services for the district. Foods such as peanuts, walnuts, pecans, fish, shellfish, eggs, milk, soy and wheat cause 90% of all allergic reactions and about 100 people die each year from allergic reactions to food, according to the not-for-profit Food Allergy Network. Among school-age children nationwide, 3% have a food allergy, with one in 150 allergic to peanuts. Anne Munoz-Furlong of the Food Allergy Network said, "Through training, prevention and working with the community, LAUSD will become the model school district for the rest of the schools in the United States." Still, the EpiPen shots will only be given to students whose parents have supplied the medication to school personnel and given the staff permission to use it in emergencies. However, Alan Calnan, professor at Southwestern School of Law, warned that allowing nonmedical staff to determine if a shot is necessary "creates a potential liability" for the school district. "Being a temporary custodian, the schools have a special relationship with children to provide basic medical services. On top of that, if you undertake to provide a specific medical service and you do it in a negligent fashion, that enhances your responsibility. They're stuck between a rock and a hard place in terms of liability," Calnan said. But Maria Reza, administrator of health and human services for the district, said, "If we're here to do the best we can for kids and a life is threatened, we need to respond. We will do what we need to ensure the safety of our kids" (Stassel, Los Angeles Times, 10/23).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.