Privacy laws spark confusion when clinicians, school nurses collaborate


When clinicians and school nurses work collaboratively confusion about federal privacy laws are more likely to arise, according to a study published in Pediatrics.

Clinicians and pediatricians are covered by HIPAA while school nurses must follow the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Under FERPA, a student’s information may be disclosed without consent to “school officials, including teachers, within the agency or institution whom the agency or institution has determined to have legitimate educational interests.” However, many school nurses work with local health departments and note that they are unsure about how to document and communicate health information, the study found.

Lead study author Patricia Elliott gave the example of a student undergoing a sexually transmitted infection screening that is conducted by the school nurse in collaboration with a health clinic. While the clinician is required by HIPAA to keep the information private, a school nurse may be required to upload that information into the student’s file, which could then be viewed by the student’s parents.

Rather than rewrite the rules, Ms. Elliot suggests clinicians and school nurses work together to enhance protocols.

To access the complete study, click here.

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