Nurses’ group voices opposition to school EpiPen bill

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EpiPenSEATTLE — From peanuts to soy, kiwi to potato chips, young children can have life-threatening allergic reactions to all kinds of food.

And while a bill sped through the Washington state Senate approving the use of EpiPens by trained staff in elementary and middle schools, some nurses groups in Washington are still hoping the bill stalls before it reaches a vote in the House.

According to the Seattle Times, Senate Bill 5104, legalizing the use of EpiPen allergic reaction shots by any trained school administrator, stalled in the House after a School Nurse Organization objected to the current form of the bill. The bill allowed for any trained staff — nurses or otherwise — to administer the shot to all students, regardless if the students have been diagnosed with a severe allergy or not.

Leaders of the nurses group said they would allow nurses to administer the shots to undiagnosed students, or allow all trained school employees to administer the shots to diagnosed students. But they wouldn’t allow both.

So far, the bill has not been heard in the House Education Committee, and a hearing needs to be rescheduled. Officials said the reschedule was not because of the nurses’ group’s objection, but because of a scheduling conflict.

For parents of children with allergies, the stalling of the the bill is stressful. One parent, Sally Porter, talked about the horrors of her son’s severe food allergies, and how an EpiPen was used to save his life many times.

“He swelled and was drooling, grabbing at his tongue and his eyes were running,” Porter said. “He was very puffy and covered in hives.”

Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, is the sponsor of the bill. He said he hoped doctors would soon be able to prescribe EpiPens en-masse to schools. He said it’s common for students to have their first allergic reactions while away from home, before they are diagnosed. According to the Times, at least one quarter of first-time allergic reactions occur at school.

“If someone has a reaction that hasn’t been diagnosed yet, there’s nothing they can do but wait for 911 to show up,” Mullet said.

Mullet objected to the nurses’  groups’ problems with the bill, saying many schools don’t have full-time nurses, and school administrators must be able to step in and save children from undiagnosed allergies. Medical experts even said giving a shot when it was unneeded wasn’t dangerous, furthering Mullet’s desire to allow school officials to give the shot.

“A lot of patients will feel extra energy and have a higher heart rate, but that’s about it,” said Dr. Kevin Dooms. “The benefits far outweigh any risks of not giving it at all.”

House committee members will try to reschedule the bill sometime in March, officials said.

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  • Cindy

    The discussion should be not quickly passing a law to put epipens in schools . It should be how will the RX.for these pens be acquired . Who will be training school employees and getting the signed paperwork required to puncture the skin of a minor child by a unlicensed individual and how many epipens will be purchased per student population and weight ( Regular epipen or Jr. ) and how will they be funded. Secretaries in many districts already do countless tasks by school nurse direction as well as their primary work responsibilities when a nurse is unavailable usually at another building . If our elected officials are so concerned about health and safety of our students why is there not a school nurse in each school building ???? There is a national recommendation and Washington state is not even close to that !!!!There is not a school nurse union in Washington state. I don't know how this reporter got it so wrong. I feel there is a lot of miscommunication surrounding school nursing and what the law is in regards to health services in school. School nurses advocate for what is best for students within the laws of our state. In the past laws have been passed that are difficult if not impossible to put in place safely because of the time it takes and the limited amount of nursing staff available to do it ( Example diabetic care planning) . It is my belief that is why S.N.O.W. ( School Nurses of Washington) voiced concerns.

  • Caroline

    This isn't a complicated procedure. Anyone who can read can administer an Epi-Pen. Timing is important. Whoever is closest to the child should be able to give them the medicine that they need to survive.

    • Tony

      Agreed. This is not something that has to be performed by a health care professional, and the danger of an uneeded injection is minimal compared to the risk of anaphylaxis.

  • NCLEX Preceptor

    It would be great if they first train school nurses in assessment of allergic reactions and administration of Epi-Pens. Also, schools must have their own nurses on duty all time and not just as on call whenever these things happen.

    I am a nurse educator and I help prepare nursing students pass the NCLEX Examination. My website has sample NCLEX questions, useful tips and free mobile application that is geared towards a successful review of the topics covered in the NCLEX exam. Visit to know more.