Bill allows nurses increased control over prescriptions

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Breathing easy: Nurse Tammy Adkins opens a package of inhalers for easy access. A new bill in the House of Representatives will allow school nurses to administer the inhalers in case of an emergency. Photo by Aniqa Rahman

Alyssa Sykuta

Breathing easy: Nurse Tammy Adkins opens a package of inhalers for easy access. A new bill in the House of Representatives will allow school nurses to administer the inhalers in case of an emergency. Photo by Aniqa Rahman

One in 12 people in the United States suffers from asthma, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Thanks to a bill approved by the Missouri House of Representatives, students with asthma won’t have to worry about carrying their inhalers with them in case of an asthma crisis.
House Bill 1188 says trained school employees “shall have the discretion to use asthma related rescue medications on any student the school nurse or trained employee believes is having a life-threatening asthma episode.” Rep. Sue Allen drafted the bill after the Asthma and Allergy Association of St. Louis, Mo. contacted her.
“It’s a short-acting inhaler,” Allen said, “so for the most part, it was agreed by the medical staff at St. Louis Children’s Hospital and Kansas City that … the benefits far, far outweigh any risks. … It could save kids’ lives.”
As it stands, school nurses are almost completely helpless when a child walks in experiencing an asthma emergency. RBHS School Nurse Tammy Adkins said the treatment process when an attack happens is slow and the ability to have rescue medications on hand would increase efficiency.
“What usually happens is a kid will come in and they’re having asthma symptoms and they don’t have an inhaler,” Adkins said. “I don’t have their meds so I don’t have anything to give them. So we have to call a parent and then the parent has to bring the inhaler … so that [is where the bill] would definitely be a help.”
Though the potential effects of the law are beneficial, Adkins isn’t sure how useful the on-hand medications would actually prove. She rarely has to treat students in respiratory distress, only one or two each month.
“I don’t know how often we’d really use it because … honestly that doesn’t happen very often where a kid comes in and doesn’t have their inhaler,” Adkins said.  “The other thing that is the issue, with an inhaler, [is] how do you use that for several kids?”
Although a few technicalities must be discussed further, junior Morgan Berk believes the bill is a great idea. An asthmatic herself, Berk understands firsthand the need for immediate action in case of an emergency.
“I was in band and … I suddenly couldn’t breathe anymore,” Berk said. “So I went back to the band room and got my inhaler and then just kind of sat for a while. … If you don’t have your inhaler and you have an asthma attack it can get really, really bad.”
In the long run, Adkins thinks the bill will definitely have positive aspects. The increase in efficiency and the ability to keep inhalers in stock at the nurse’s office could be the difference between life and death.
“It saves a step; it keeps things from getting too bad where you’re calling 911 or something like that for it,” Adkins said. “So I think it’s a pretty good thing.”
By Alyssa Sykuta