Administration of medicines
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 123 No 7, 5 October 2018, page no. 24
The QTU is increasingly receiving requests for advice and assistance from administrators and teachers who are being asked to administer medication or formally monitor the medical wellbeing of a student.
While it is important that teachers are made aware of the medical conditions of students in their care, this should not result in the teacher becoming responsible for the delivery of medication, formal, active monitoring of a health condition, or performing medical procedures.
Principals have an obligation to ensure that students have access to a reasonable standard of support for their health needs. However, it is not reasonable to request that a teacher takes on specific responsibility for delivery of medication or medical procedures on a regular basis.
Departmental advice notes: “All decisions regarding the option taken by the school should be in the best interests of the student, and would need to consider the capability and willingness of staff members to volunteer to perform a clinical/medical/health care response in a crisis situation. In these circumstances, the principal will work with the parent/carer, the treating health team and regional staff to determine how best to plan the most appropriate course of action.”
If the school has the capacity to provide a reasonable standard of support, it is then reasonable to resource it through the allocation of teacher-aide hours, so that the task of providing medication or administering a medical procedure is specifically timetabled and committed to. However, teachers and other staff members cannot be required to administer medication or perform medical procedures if they do not wish to.
Generally, volunteering teacher-aides are specifically timetabled to assist with the administration of routine and emergency medication, and some teacher-aides who hold a first aid certificate are paid an additional allowance for holding this qualification and carrying out such tasks.
The department advises that a request for school staff to administer medication during school hours should be considered only when there is no other alternative or when a prescribing health practitioner has determined that the administration of medication at school is necessary.
Even where a teacher has volunteered, there is a responsibility to assess whether the proposal creates a safe system of work, taking into account the student’s wellbeing, the teacher’s active capacity, and the impact on the teacher’s work with other members of the class.
The QTU’s position is that time and human resources need to be planned for and allocated to systems designed to support students requiring the management of specialised health needs and/or the administration of medication.
Medication must be properly stored and appropriately administered. It is general custom and practice to have explicit systems in place, managed by administrative officers and/or teacher-aides as part of their allocated duties. The QTU advises that this is an appropriate model.
Please note that schools require medical authorisation from a prescribing health practitioner to administer any medication to students (including over-the-counter medications such as paracetamol or alternative medicines).
It is expected and reasonable that principals ensure that all staff are aware of the medical needs of students they are working with. This expectation extends to supply teachers and other staff members who might replace an absent staff member for the day.
Schools should develop an emergency management plan (see DoE policy “Administration of medications in schools”) so that it is clear what should happen if medication has to be administered in an emergency. Other trained volunteers would need to be listed as backups in the event of absence.
Principals can seek support from appropriately qualified health professionals, including state school registered nurses (SSRNs), for assistance with student health issues, developing individual and emergency health plans, and training in the administration of medication.
Assistant Secretary - Services