Send yourself to the school nurse’s office


Work with school staff and families to prepare students for school

In brief:

  • Many children need to take medications during the school day
  • Schools often lack staffing and expertise in dealing with medications
  • Pharmacists can assist school nurses and staff, families, and children in preparing to safely go back to school

Helping school nurses help kids stay safe

Keeping kids healthy at school is increasingly complicated for reasons like we’ve highlighted below:

  • About a quarter of children have chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma.
  • Many children have allergies, including food allergies. Nearly a quarter of school nurses said epinephrine was given in their school in the past year.1
  • In the Carolinas, 40% of school nurses had a student on an opioid prescription.2

At the same time, schools have a shortage of nurses, who are often overwhelmed.

  • Fewer than 40% of U.S.3 schools have a full-time nurse
  • About 25% of schools don’t have a school nurse at all.4
  • 90% of school nurses want to partner with a pharmacist, but few have access to one.5

Pharmacists can support school nurses and staff by ensuring that students have the medications they need and that school staff know how to store and administer medications properly. Reach out to your local schools to offer your expertise, services and products. You might have an opportunity to:

  • Help train school nurses and staff on administering epinephrine
  • Provide first-aid kits or stocked backpacks for field trips
  • Team with coaching staff to ensure they have appropriate supplies for practices and games

Prepare patients’ medications for school

Pharmacists can help families with the back-to-school transition by identifying school-age patients who take medications and talking with parents. For example, families may need:

  • Refills. Remind parents to pick up back-to-school prescriptions by posting signs and using bag stuffers. Encourage parents to check expiration dates on meds they are sending to school.
  • Extra packaging. Schools may require medications to be in their original container. If so, parents may need an extra pill bottle to split medications between home and school.
  • Provider notes. A doctor’s note may be needed for administering prescriptions and over-the-counter products. Work with providers to help make the process easy for patients and their families.
  • Assistance with school staff. Communication and training may be more effective if it comes from pharmacists.

To be ready to help patients during the hectic back-to-school period, contact your local schools to learn their policies. You can also host an education session where school staff can explain policies to families, or offer to help during a back-to-school night.

Educate students, too

Often an unlicensed staff member, not a nurse, will be giving children medication in schools. This makes it important that children know about their medications.

Work with families to help train kids about what they take, what it looks like, how much they take and how often. Offering compliance packaging may make it easier for students to take the right doses at school.

Note: The information provided here is for reference use only and does not constitute the rendering of legal or other professional advice by McKesson. Readers should consult appropriate professionals for advice and assistance prior to making important decisions regarding their business. McKesson is not advocating any particular program or approach herein. McKesson is not responsible for, nor will it bear any liability for, the content provided herein.

1 “Study Highlights Need for Epinephrine in Schools — and Staff Trained to Administer It,” American Academy of Pediatrics, Sept. 15, 2017. LINK
2 “N.C., S.C. School Nurses Want to Be Better Prepared for Opioids, UNC Study Finds,” David Etchison, University of North Carolina Eshelman School of Pharmacy, Oct. 17, 2017. LINK
3 “School Nurses in the U.S.,” National Association of School Nurses. May 2017. LINK
4 “What You Should Know About School Nurses,” Catherine Roberts, Consumer Reports, Aug. 2, 2017. LINK
5 “Medication Management in Schools: Pharmacist Involvement Can Improve Outcomes,” Jeannette Y. Wick, Pharmacy Times, Dec. 5, 2017. LINK
6 “2017 Back to School Survey,” Deloitte, July 12, 2017. LINK