School nurses on the frontlines of treating opioid overdose

As opioid overdoses continue to grab headlines, more states are providing their communities with easier access to naloxone, which can prevent death by reversing opioid overdoses. But while naloxone may be available at township buildings, libraries, or other community locations, little is known about how schools maintain a supply and use naloxone to prepare for treating overdose.

At the University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing (Penn Nursing), researchers conducted an online survey of 362 Pennsylvania school nurses (elementary, middle, and high school) to better understand how they have a supply, administer, and perceive storing naloxone in their schools. The results illustrate that though many nurses have a supply of naloxone in their school, important barriers to access and use of this life-saving medication still exist.

In the study, close to half of those who responded to the survey reported that they did not have a supply of naloxone in their school building. Reasons for not having a supply included lack of school board and/or administration support, belief that the medication was not needed in their school, and lack of funds, among other reasons. Of those who had naloxone in their school, 5% reported that the overdose reversal drug had been used at their school.

Our survey results show that barriers, particularly those related to lack of support or beliefs that naloxone is not needed in a community, need to be addressed. School nurses are in a position as both health educators and emergency responders regarding opioid overdose and may be an untapped resource to spread the adoption of community access to naloxone through normative behavior."

Penn Nursing's Catherine C. McDonald, PhD, RN, Assistant Professor and lead investigator of the study

Journal reference:

McDonald, C.C., et al. (2020) School nurse reported supply and administration of naloxone in schools. Public Health Nursing.


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