Nurse practitioners (NPs) have become health partner for individuals and families in America. With advanced clinical training and experience, they have the qualification to provide comprehensive care for patients. However, many people question nurse practitioner prescriptive authority.
Can nurse practitioners prescribe drugs or medical devices? If the answer is yes, can nurse practitioners prescribe any substances for their patients? Whether you want to be an NP or plan to visit a nurse practitioner to get medication, learn more about the prescriptive authority of NPs below.
What is a Nurse Practitioner?
A nurse practitioner is a registered nurse with extended education and advanced clinical training. They must complete undergraduate and graduate education programs which typically take seven years at a minimum.
It is quite a long process to be a nurse practitioner. To start the journey, one has to be licensed as a registered nurse (RN). After taking work experience, a registered nurse can advance her training and education to be certified as an NP.
To become a nurse practitioner, you must hold a Master’s degree in Nursing from an approved university. There are standard clinical hours to complete according to the speciality area they choose. After graduation, nurse practitioners must be licensed by the State Board of Nursing.
What Does an NP Do?
Nurse practitioners have a number of duties depending on their specialization—the state where an NP practice also affects their authority. In general, nurse practitioners are responsible for caring for patients through the life span, providing quality and comprehensive care, and diagnose health problems.
Other duties of an NP may include but not limited to obtaining medical histories, performing physical exams, diagnosing and treating chronic disease, ordering and interpreting laboratory tests, and providing well-child care like immunizations and screening.
Nurse practitioners also have the authority to educate their patients to promote healthy behaviours. If needed, NPs can collaborate with physicians or health professionals to provide quality care and treatment.
Can a Nurse Practitioner Prescribe Medication?
Yes. Nurse practitioners have prescriptive authority that allows them to prescribe medication and treatments to their patients. However, the degree of their power to prescribe medications depends on which state they are working in.
There are three main categories of nurse practitioner prescriptive authority known in the US. These categories include:
Nurse practitioners in large states like California, Florida, and Texas practice under restricted conditions. In order to prescribe medications and medical devices, they must have an agreement with a physician.
Other states such as New York and Vermont apply reduced category for NPs. Unlike restricted category, NPs will need to undergo a supervised probationary period before earning full prescriptive authority. During a probationary period, NPs can collaborate with a physician.
New NPs must have a collaborate with a doctor. After taking up to 3 years of experience, they can be more autonomous in prescribing drugs.
⦁ Full Authority
Nurse practitioners in states like Oregon, Wyoming, and Colorado have full authority to prescribe pharmaceuticals. This nurse practitioner prescriptive authority enables them to autonomously prescribe drugs or medical devices without being supervised by a physician.
Despite the states having different regulations on prescriptive authority, all 50 states allow nurse practitioners to prescribe non-controlled substances like antibiotics, antidepressants, and birth control.
But when it comes to a controlled substance like narcotics and drugs with moderate and high potential abuse, prescription to these substances require special registration. For instance, doctors and NPs in Maryland must register with PDMP before prescribing these substances.
Why Are Nurse Practitioners Allowed Prescribe Medications?
Nurse practitioners must complete undergraduate and graduate programs before applying for a license. During their graduate programs, NP students receive extensive education in diagnosis and treatment. They must also complete advanced courses in pharmacotherapeutics as well as patient simulations.
In addition, NP students learn how to safely prescribe medication in different population while studying pharmacodynamics and pharmacokinetics. This, nurse practitioners are prepared enough to get full prescriptive authority despite the difference in regional laws.
So, can nurse practitioners prescribe medication? Yes, of course. They have the qualification and competence to prescribe pharmaceuticals. With extensive education and training, they are prepared for prescriptive authority.
But with differing regional laws, nurse practitioner prescriptive authority may vary depending on which state you are working in. Some states may stipulate full prescriptive authority, while some others apply reduced or even restricted authority.