Precise instructions provide confidence
The most common long-term illnesses among school-aged children are diabetes, asthma, allergies, epilepsy, migraine and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders. Lower secondary school pupils also have depression. What action should be taken to make the administration of medication during the school day a reliable process?
“It is vitally important that parents tell the school management and teachers about the health of their child. After that, a medication plan should be prepared with precise instructions for school staff on how to administer medication to the child, and a commitment from the school to follow the instructions,” Siitonen says.
This would give parents and teachers confidence and remove any uncertainties when medication is to be administered and who is responsible.
“Of course, in a real emergency, everyone has the duty to provide first aid. It is not a question of responsibilities.”
Training and peer support
Research shows that some schools use medication plans successfully, while others do not.
“The sad thing is that pupils are in highly unequal situations at the moment. Where you live or go to school should not affect this, nor should your teacher’s attitude,” Siitonen says.
In an ideal situation, there would always be more than one adult in each classroom, so that if required, the teacher or assistant would be able to concentrate on medicating or caring for one child.
“However, this is not reality in most schools. Often, the teacher is the only adult in the classroom,” Kärkkäinen says.
She hopes that teachers could be provided with medicine education and guidance on the use of medicines as part of their continuing education, for example. The medicine education website (Lääkekasvatus.fi) also contains materials for schools.
According to Antti Tonder, the teacher’s threshold for duty to care could be lowered through multi-professional cooperation, for example with the help of the school nurse.
“Of course, some teachers already have experience of caring for children with a long-term illness. They could provide peer support for their less experienced colleagues.”