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AFT SCHOOL DECISION
By: Nicole Johnson
In July, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) met and issued guidelines on caring for a child with diabetes at school. After that meeting, the AFT released a brochure outlining its position on diabetes care. The brochure states that only a school nurse should provide care to diabetic students and advises teachers and non-medical school personnel to not be involved in diabetes care or emergencies, even if a professional has trained them.
This decision is alarming. The premise of a nurse in every school is noble. I would go as far as saying: necessary. However, this request or demand from the AFT is simply not realistic. Our schools are in crisis. Funding challenges and staffing issues abound. Many school districts simply cannot afford nurses. When nurses are available, most are servicing multiple schools. The problem with the AFT decision lies in that “over servicing.”. We all know that diabetes emergencies are not scheduled or predictable. A child with diabetes requires protection and advisement at all times, not just a few hours a day or a few days of the week.
Organizations in the diabetes arena have been advocating for trained diabetes care providers in schools – nurses, teachers, administrators, or volunteers. These individuals would be available to assist students with diabetes if needed or in the case of an emergency. The AFT states that using “trained diabetes personnel” in the place of increasing the numbers of school nurses is setting the stage for potentially dangerous situations. It believes the training would be inadequate and minimal. The diabetes medical community disagrees and asserts that the training would be complete and would nearly match the knowledge of other laypersons caring for people with diabetes. Testing glucose through a finger stick is not rocket science, and if a glucagon injection is needed there is really no way to err. The point is providing immediate assistance.
The AFT uses one example in their brochure to demonstrate its concerns, however the example is unsubstantiated. A request was made for information to corroborate their account, but a response has not been received. Internet research produced no results that matched their described situation. AFT claims that in a Texas school, a school employee mistakenly gave a student 200 units of insulin rather than the prescribed 2 units. From my research and experience, syringes used for insulin only hold 100, 50 or 35 units. To give 200 units, as the example suggests, is impossible. This can only happen if multiple injections are given. Even insulin pens cannot dose 200 units of insulin at one time. The maximum pen dose is between 65 and 70 units.
Although AFT appears to be well meaning in its position, it seems this fight for more funding and staffing is being waged at the risk of young lives. To suggest that teachers and school personnel should ignore the needs of a child with diabetes is unacceptable. Furthermore, to refuse help from trained personnel is, in my opinion, unwise.