Each morning the small, yellow school bus picked up special needs children and took them to school. One child, Jimmy, was accompanied by a private duty nurse who would attend school with him. Jimmy had a trach, and he was comforted by having his nurse with him. Without her, he would not have been able to attend school.

One morning, the children were on the school bus going to a summer camp outing. There were two camp counselors on the bus along with Jimmy’s nurse and the driver. Suddenly, another child on the bus had a seizure and was in respiratory distress. Can Jimmy’s nurse help out? What if the scenario was different? What if another child besides the one the nurse was assigned to on the bus arrested, and there were no other personnel except the bus driver? Can the nurse administer CPR?

This is a scenario posed by a nurse, not a report of a real situation. However, it addresses several important issues. Does the nurse have any moral or ethical obligation to help the child in distress? If she tried to give CPR to the child, would she be liable if the outcome was not a good one? Should the bus driver attempt to drive the bus to the nearest hospital? What, indeed, would be the best response?

First, let’s consider the legal aspects of the situation. On July 1, 2006, a law went into effect in Illinois protecting Good Samaritans currently certified in first aid by the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association from being sued for helping someone who is seriously injured. On January 25, 2007, Governor Rod Blagojevich extended the same protection to people who received such training from the National Safety Council.

Does the nurse have a moral or ethical obligation to help? Absolutely! She has a moral obligation to initiate CPR and to assist in whatever way she can, providing she does not do something beyond her scope of expertise such as surgically trying to place a ball point pen into the child’s neck as a trach tube.

How could the nurse respond? First, advise the bus driver of the situation. Tell him to call for assistance. The driver should NOT attempt to drive to the nearest hospital. The driver should stop the bus in a safe place and allow the emergency personnel (paramedics) to come to the bus.

Second, assign the bus driver to watch your client while you attend to the victim and try to stabilize the child. Third, ask the two camp counselors to supervise the other children on the bus.

A private duty nurse who is employed by American Home Health has a support system at the office. Day or night, supervisors and administrative staff are always available in case of an emergency.

If you or a member of your family is needing home health services, consider American Home Health. For more information, go to or call (630) 236-3501.

— By Karen Centowski

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