School Nurses Dealing With Overdose Epidemic, Too

Oct 29, 2014

School nurse teachers in Rhode Island say they need to have an opioid overdose rescue drug called Narcan on hand in schools. That’s one of several findings of a first-ever survey of school nurses about the use of opioids like prescription painkillers in schools and experiences with overdoses in schools. Overdose educator and University of Rhode Island pharmacy professor Jef Bratberg presented the findings. He says it’s not surprising that schools are affected.

A package of nasal naloxone, or Narcan, doses. The drug can reverse an opioid overdose in seconds, if used in time.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

“Students are affected but their families are affected, and it goes both directions," said Bratberg. "And who knows, I’m sure teachers are affected too. This overdose epidemic is affecting our community and schools are a part of our community.”

15 of the 78 nurses surveyed said they had called 9-1-1, often several times, over the past three years because of a suspected student overdose. Several said they’d had to respond to a suspected family member’s overdose at a school-sponsored event.

The nurses completed the survey at an overdose prevention training program for the Rhode Island School Nurse Teacher Association. The Rhode Island Dept. of Health designed the survey and researchers from Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital analyzed the data.

Members of a statewide task force on opioid abuse and overdose are examining the need for new or revised legislation to enable school nurses to stock and use Narcan.