Field trips. What a great experience during the school year. Children get to step outside the classroom to see something new and learn about the world around them. Although fun for the student, field trips can increase teachers and chaperones’ stress levels. Safe and successful field trips involve a great deal of planning for various things that may arise with the students. An important, but sometimes overlooked, task that must happen on a school field trip is the proper administration of prescription medications.Field trips should involve open and thorough communication with the families of students going on the trip. This includes clear and concise instructions on the delivery and retrieval of medications, how and by whom medications will be administered during the trip, and what records will be kept. This should take place well in advance of the field trip.
One person should be designated to administer medicine to students. Ideally, the Assistive Personnel (AP) would be a nurse or medical professional trained to dispense prescription drugs. If a person with such qualifications is not available, a trained, unlicensed assistive personnel (UAP) may be delegated to administer medication. The school should also appoint a back-up person depending on the size of the group and the number of additional responsibilities an Assistive Personnel may have. After that is done, the following general steps should be followed.
The Assistive Personnel should meet with the student’s parent or guardian well in advance of the trip for any questions or uncertainties to be cleared up. The meeting should include discussion on when the medications that will be dispensed during the field trip will be delivered to the school. Also, the AP should determine whether the medication must be kept chilled. If so, make arrangements before the trip for proper storage, including cooler bags, ice packs, etc.
Prescriptions should be in the original container from the pharmacy, and the label should indicate the student’s name, type of drug, the dose, the prescribing physician, and instructions. This includes the dosage, whether the medication should be taken with or without food or liquid, the ideal time of day to take the medicine, and possible side effects, etc.
Besides the actual supply of medicine, the Assistive Personnel should collect and keep a copy of all forms from parents. This would include applications, written requests or instructions, permission forms, and any other forms needed. If there are any areas on the forms that are not clearly understood or are blank, the Assistive Personnel should communicate with the parent, in advance, to gain clarity or missing information.
Once collected, the Assistive Personnel should create a plan and a schedule for handling and dispensing the medicine. The schedule should include the following:
- First and last name of the student;
- All medications to be administered and the proper dosage, times, and manner of administration;
- A logbook to record each time medicine is given;
- Arrange to keep medicine secure and in the right conditions, such as temperature, out of sunlight, and other various restrictions;
- If a dosage is missed or skipped or the wrong medicine is given, this must be logged and reported to the school administration. Parents should also be told immediately;
- An arrangement or process for returning all unused medicine when the field trip concludes.
Privacy is always an issue with any medical issue. Dispensing of medications and records should be done in private and in a way that complies with applicable laws. Also, the administration of drugs should be done as privately as possible out of courtesy toward the student. The limits of discussion and disclosure may be covered in the permission form. Review all privacy issues and laws with your conference’s attorney, who is familiar with the laws in your state, and applicable federal law.
Lastly, if you face an emergency, be prepared. Have the records ready for the EMTs and consult your logbook to tell them when the last dose of medicine was given to the student. The more information they have, the better they can treat the child.
Field trips are incredible. With proper planning and thought, dispensing medicine need not be unduly stressful.
This article is for general information only. Your practices and policies must comply with local laws and should be crafted to fit your school’s circumstances.
 This article does not address the issues involved with administering controlled substances.
 This article does not focus on the content of a permission form. That is another subject for another article.
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