Parents upset with candy-filled pill bottles distributed at NC middle school’s career day

North Carolina news

(Courtesy of Jason Efrid via WECT)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY (WECT) – Parents of students at Myrtle Grove Middle School are concerned a visual aid used during a career fair sends the wrong message — and could even be dangerous.

On Nov. 8, some students who visited the career fair were given prescription pill bottles filled with Skittles as a visual aid about the day-to-day work in a pharmacy.

The bottles have New Hanover Regional Medical Center’s logo and information printed on them, along with the “prescription” for 300 mg of the candy. Instructions on the bottles indicate the “patient” should “take two tablets by mouth twice a day as needed for pain.”

“To me, it’s a huge huge safety thing,” said Jason Efird, whose son attended the fair and sent him photos of the bottles. “We are just basically saying: ‘Look here, pills are candy!’ when they are definitely not.”

According to Efird, the pill bottles were used during the demonstration about how pharmacy technicians measure out prescriptions.

Efird said while middle schoolers might know and recognize that real prescription bottles don’t contain sweet treats, younger children may not understand the difference.

“My biggest fear was my son comes home with two younger siblings that don’t know better,” Efird said. “At 12, he knows better but I’ve got a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, so if he comes home and is shaking a medicine bottle full of candy in it, walking around the house, they’re going to see that, and just because there’s no pill bottle at our house, if they go to their grandparents house or whatever and see it, then what’s keeping them one of my small kids from taking who knows what?”

Additionally, given how millions of prescription pain pills fueled the opioid epidemic, Efird said he feels the visual aid was at the very least in poor taste.

He said other parents have shared his concern, which prompted him to reach out to WECT.

When asked about the incident, New Hanover County Schools sent a statement describing what happened:

As a part of an educational opportunity to expose children to a wide range of career opportunities the students at Myrtle Grove Middle School participated in a Job Fair. One of the sessions was provided by the New Hanover Regional Medical Center Pharmacy Department. NHRMC professionals with the Pharmacy Department spoke to students on their job descriptions, education requirements, and responsibilities. This included teaching students about prescription measurements and recording and charting medication, all of which a pharmacist does in their profession.

Efird said he understands the desire to give students an idea of what to expect in the workplace, but added he feels it could have been handled better.

“You can show how a job is done without giving an actual pill bottle full of candy to kids,” he said. “It’s like, there is a hairstylist there, they’re not giving them scissors, you know?”

In response to inquiries about the hospital’s involvement, a spokesperson for NHRMC said they recognize the parent’s concerns.

“Our team members regularly participate in career fairs to showcase the varied healthcare careers available. They occasionally bring medical props to help explain or demonstrate aspects of their jobs. We understand the concerns about these props and will not use them in this way again.”

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