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Medication Errors in Schools Put Children at Risk
Medication safety analyst advocates partnerships of pharmacists with local educators to promote safe administration of medicine in schools
PLAINSBORO, NJ (Feb. 25, 2010)—Children who require medications during school hours are at greater risk for missing doses, receiving incorrect doses, or taking the wrong medications, according to a new report in the February 2010 issue of Pharmacy Times
. According to author and medication safety analyst Michael J. Gaunt, PharmD, pharmacists are in a unique position to cooperate with schools to promote safe administration of medicines to children during the school day.
In the article “Help Prevent Medication Errors in Schools
,” Gaunt writes that in the wake of severe budget cuts, many schools no longer have certified nurses on staff and are thus ill-equipped to deliver medicines on a daily basis. Gaunt, who is also the editor of ISMP Medication Safety Alert! Community/Ambulatory Care Edition,
cites a University of Iowa study in which researchers found that 75% of daily medications are administered to children by “non-nursing school staff.” In these cases, the task of medication delivery has been delegated to teachers and administrative support staff, who lack the time and training to ensure that children receive doses safely and consistently. The errors that result are common and can have serious repercussions, including the progression of chronic illnesses.
As local experts on medication safety, pharmacists are uniquely positioned to bridge the knowledge gap between certified nurses—who may not be available during the school day—and untrained caregivers in schools. For this reason, writes Gaunt, “It is important for each school to have a local pharmacy that they can call if they have questions on medications.”
Beyond making themselves available for quick phone consultations, pharmacists should also proactively seek opportunities to deliver in-service education and medication safety training, which promote awareness and help pharmacists develop personal relationships with in-school caregivers. “Present a program,” Gaunt suggests, “such as [the] FDA’s Medicines in My Home for parents and/or students at a school function.”
By reaching out to schools through the strategies Gaunt proposes, pharmacists can lay the groundwork for community-wide policies that prevent medication errors and improve the health of the communities they serve.
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