OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to educate the school staff for a correct management of epileptic seizures in order to increase the safety of young people at school and promoting the administration of rescue drugs and in order to improve care and reduce improper calls to the health emergency number.
METHODS: This project started in January 2016, and it is still ongoing at the Department of Neuroscience of Bambino Gesù Children’s Hospital in Rome, Italy. There has been a data cut-off evaluation in November 2018. Two-hour training meetings with the school staff have been organized. The major topics of the training activities were as follows: report what epilepsy is, how to manage students with epileptic seizures, and how to administer rescue medications. During the meetings, the following two questionnaires were administered: one pretest in order to collect personal information and information on awareness of epilepsy, willingness to administer rescue medications, and anxiety in facing a seizure; and one posttest in order to check the knowledge acquired after the training sessions. Statistical analysis was performed using R version 3.2.3 (R Foundation for Statistical Computing, http://www.R-project.org/). Demographics (sex and age) and teaching experience were summarized with descriptive statistics for each variable. Demographics, teaching experience, awareness of disability, and knowledge of epilepsy were correlated to the management of seizures occurring in the classroom before the course; results are reported as odds ratios [OR] and 95% confidence interval (95 CI).
RESULTS: Nine hundred school staff members (95% school staff and 5% social workers) entered in the project between January 2016 and November 2018. Seven hundred and forty (82%) returned the questionnaires fulfilled, and not all of them were completely filled. Ninety-eight percent of school staff (676/691) were aware about epilepsy; however, only in 16% (110) the awareness of epilepsy came from medical staff, scientific brochures, or participation in conventions. Thirty-five percent of school staff (248/707) believed that epilepsy reduces learning abilities, and 58% (409/703) believed that children with epilepsy need school support. After the training, 68% of school staff (496/734) correctly filled in the questionnaire related to the management of acute seizures versus 8% of them (57/718) in the prequestionnaire. After the training, 89% of school staff (601/675) were ready to administer rescue medications versus 54% (384/712) before the training. The majority of participants reported that the level of anxiety related to the management of seizures after the training significantly reduced.
CONCLUSIONS: Results of this project documented an increase in knowledge of epilepsy, a better knowledge on management of acute seizures in the school settings, a reduction in anxiety, and an increase in willingness to administer rescue medications. Further studies should be planned in order to document the changes in the real-world management of seizures, to evaluate if a reduction in hospital admittances might be reached, and to extend the project by assessing, through a questionnaire, the stigma and prejudices against the children affected by epilepsy by their classmates.