School nurses are valuable members of the healthcare team. We see many students, especially those with significant health concerns, almost every day and thus can be strong partners in working with primary care physicians and others to maximize the health of children. However, many physicians don’t leverage this partnership fully because of a common misunderstanding of the HIPAA Privacy Rule.
HIPAA does allow covered healthcare providers to disclose PHI about students to school nurses for treatment purposes, without the authorization of the student or student’s parent.
School nurses follow HIPAA and a federal law known as FERPA — The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. While HIPAA protects health-related PHI, FERPA protects the privacy of student education records. School nurses are exceptionally careful when it comes to handling and sharing medical and education-related information and have a deep understanding of both HIPAA and FERPA rules. Click here to read more about FERPA from the CDC.
As a student’s health record evolves, please inform their school nurse. We always encourage doctors to contact us directly. Even if you give a parent or caregiver a paper or form to pass along to the school nurse, it may never make it to our desk. So please know, with confidence, you can—and should—keep your patients’ school nurses informed about health-related matters without any worry about violating HIPAA rules.
Through a partnership with Moses Taylor Foundation, the Lackawanna and Luzerne County Medical Societies has been exploring ways to better collaborate with our region’s school nurses. We’re pleased to share a series of articles over the next few months to open conversations and highlight topics that matter to our regional healthcare community.