Nurses take on schools over insulin shots

May 28, 2013 7:33:11 PM PDT
The nurses union is fighting an effort by the California Department of Education. They don't want non-nurses allowed to give insulin shots to diabetic kids at school and the California Supreme Court hears the case on Wednesday.

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.