School Nurses Caution: Picking up Student Prescriptions (May 2016 School Leader Update)
Last year the Department issued a Medication Waste Guidance document which described the appropriate methods for disposal of medication waste. Another topic closely related to medication waste has surfaced from that guidance.
Many schools or school districts have school nurses who are currently picking up prescription medications for their students from the pharmacy and transporting those medications to the school in their own personal vehicles for administration at the school. While this is seemingly an innocent practice, it is not without its pitfalls. The issue from a legal perspective is a liability issue.
Having a school nurse act as the agent of the parent or student and picking up medications puts the nurse in a compromised position. Schools and school districts should not be asking their nurses to act as agents for parents in this manner. The school nurse is liable for the prescriptions they transport in the course of his or her employment and so is the school or school district. If the nurse fails to deliver the medications or converts those for personal use, the school or school district could be liable.
Additionally, if the school nurse is pulled over while transporting these medications, he or she can still be charged for possession of a prescription drug without a prescription – the onus is then on the nurse to prove he or she was acting as an agent of the parent or student and that he or she was ensuring the appropriate use of the medication. In a nutshell, it really puts the school nurse in a bad position to be transporting student medications and it is not recommended.
The Iowa Board of Pharmacy rules provide that a pharmacy can deliver a prescription. Iowa Admin. Code r. 657—8.15. Thus, this provides another option to schools or school districts who currently have nurses who engage in this practice. Having the pharmacy deliver the prescription to the school for the student would be a better approach and have less liability attached to it. As always, you should consult with your school district counsel regarding these issues.