Nurses take on schools over insulin shots


When Megan Libal's third grade daughter was diagnosed with diabetes, her child's school didn't have a full time nurse to administer insulin, so Megan quit her job to give the shots herself.

"For about four to seven months, we didn't have a consistent nurse. So my family and I had to make a decision," said Megan Libal, the mother of a diabetic child. "So we made a decision that I would stay home and take care of her."

The California Supreme Court will be deciding a case that could change the lives of families living with diabetic children: should a trained, but unlicensed non-medical worker be able to give insulin shots to public school students?

State law says no, but in the midst of recent budget cuts, not all schools could afford a nurse. In some districts that actually have school nurses, the ratio is 6,000 students to 1 nurse. Consequently in 2007, the without Legislative approval the Department of Education allowed other school employees to give the shots. The President of the National Association of School Nurses, Linda Davis-Alldritt, says that move jeopardizes student safety.

"Insulin as a medication can be fatal if given wrong. It's a hormone. Too much insulin can cause fatality and can cause it fairly quickly," said Davis-Alldritt.

Critics of the nurses' unions, including the American Diabetes Association, say they're just trying to boost jobs and that insulin shots can be administered safely by other people.

In a highly unusual move, the Obama Administration has chimed in urging the California justices to allow other school employees to give shots when nurses are unavailable.

"It's easy to give a shot, but it's not easy to do the assessment on whether or not that child has been successfully treated with the medication they've been given," said Davis-Alldritt.

While Libal is leaning toward requiring school nurses, she does worry about other parents.

"I can only imagine a parent who couldn't quit her job. What do they do?" said Libal.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule in the coming months.

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