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How Your Kid Gets Good Healthcare at School

Talk to the School Before an Injury


Updated January 23, 2014

Kid Getting on Schoolbus

Don't wait until the first day of school to take care of your child's health needs

(c) flickr user Jenn

Getting the kids back in school after a long summer break can be pretty hectic, especially if you have more than one child. There are clothes and supplies to buy, and if the kids are in fall sports, it's even worse. During the back-to-school rush, try not to forget to communicate medical needs to the school.

Our kids spend a lot of time away from us during the school year. While it's certainly easier to get ahold of parents today than it was when we were kids, there may be a need for your child to get medical care when you can't be reached.



For anyone to be treated by a healthcare provider, he or she must give consent. In the case of kids, parents provide the consent for medical care. If parents aren't available to give permission, kids can be left in limbo: they don't get treatment and are unable to be released from medical care.

Healthcare providers can treat any life-threatening injuries or illnesses without getting permission, because consent is implied by such a dire medical emergency -- it's assumed that the victim or the victim's parents would give permission if they were able to since a life is at stake.

Each state is a little different, but, in general, school officials are allowed to make medical decisions for kids in their care. This includes emergency decisions as well as nonemergency medical care. A school representative is allowed to seek nonemergency treatment for a child if parents are unavailable. Often, this means a teacher or administrator, with no medical training, will decide where, when and if your child goes to the hospital or gets an ambulance.

School nurses are an endangered species in many parts of the country. Nurse wages are getting higher, and schools can't compete with other employers. Your child may not have a dedicated school nurse available every day to make the kinds of medical decisions kids need. When a nurse isn't at the school, somebody else has to make the call.


Communicate Your Kids' Needs

Your school will probably ask you to fill out a form each year for each child. The form provides the school with information on your child's address, family and emergency contact information, doctor's name and more. This is the place for you to give the school directions on taking care of your child.


  • Include personal medical information about your kids; don't forget to list all medications your child is taking, including the dose and how often. Make sure you include any allergies your child has.


  • Include your child's doctor with a contact number. The school doesn't really need it, but the hospital will want the information.


  • If you have a hospital preference, write it down. Usually, the school will simply send your child to the nearest emergency department, but if you give them instructions on where to go, they will do their best to accommodate your wishes. Sometimes, depending on the injury or illness, your child may be taken to a specialty center instead of the hospital you indicated, but that's a good thing.


If your child has a chronic condition -- epilepsy, peanut allergies, asthma and diabetes all come to mind but there are many more -- a face-to-face chat with administrators and teachers is in order before school starts. There are three people you must absolutely tell about any special needs your child has: her teacher, the principal and the nurse.

Communication is the key to keeping your kids safe at school. Give your school officials the tools they need to take care of your kids.


American Academy of Pediatrics. Committee on School Health. "American Academy of Pediatrics: Guidelines for emergency medical care in school." Pediatrics. Feb 2001

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