On August 12, 2013, the California Supreme Court ruled that school employees can administer insulin shots to diabetic students when a nurse is not available. This decision arises in the context of a continuing shortage of school nurses available to administer the shots and a federal class action lawsuit alleging that California schools have failed to provide adequate health services to students as required by law. In 2007 the California Department of Education ("CDE") advised school districts that a trained school employee may administer insulin when a school nurse is not available. The case at issue in today's decision was filed by the American Nurses Association and challenged CDE's advice as "condoning the unauthorized practice of nursing."
The California Supreme Court concluded that "California law expressly permits trained, unlicensed school personnel to administer prescription medications such as insulin in accordance with the written statements of a student's treating physician and parents... and expressly exempts persons who thus carry out physicians' medical orders from laws prohibiting the unauthorized practice of nursing." Therefore, it is up to each student's treating physician and parent to determine whether insulin may be administered by an unlicensed school employee. Today's ruling is in line with the "practical reality that most insulin administered outside of hospitals and other clinical settings is in fact administered by laypersons."
Today's ruling reverses the lower court opinion, which held that only licensed professionals were permitted to administer insulin shots.
The full opinion is available here.