February 2018

What RN prescribing means for dispensing

With RN prescribing on the way, the College is working on ways to set clear and consistent standards for nurses dispensing medication. Currently, we have different requirements for RNs, RPNs and NPs who dispense medications.

For example, NPs are required to label medication with specific information such as the client’s name, drug name and instructions for use. However, we currently do not have a similar specific requirement for RNs or RPNs.

NPs have additional requirements in their practice standard because they do not require an order from another health professional to dispense medications. In the future, RNs who prescribe medication will also be able to dispense medication without an order from another health professional.

Dispensing presents some unique risks to clients. For example, a client may not know how to properly store a medication, how or when to take it, or other special considerations. Some ways to mitigate risks includes educating the client, and having a way to track the medication if it is recalled for safety reasons.

We’ve also noticed that nurses often use the terms dispensing and administration interchangeably. However, they have distinct meanings. Dispensing means to give one or more prescribed medication doses to a client to take at a later time. When administering a medication, the nurse gives one dose to the client to take at that time.

We will be reviewing our current practice standards and, where possible, setting consistent requirements for all nurses. Our goal is to ensure clients are protected from the risk of harm when any nurse prescribes, dispenses or administers medication.

As with any medication practice, all nurses are accountable to the Medication practice standard when dispensing medication. In addition, NPs are accountable to the Nurse Practitioners practice standard.

Take our poll

As work to implement RN prescribing in Ontario progresses, we want to hear from you. Throughout the year, we will have a series of polls for you to take. Our goal is to raise awareness about this initiative and to help us understand your information needs.

Polls are a way for the College to engage with nurses on hot topics in nursing regulation—not an official form of consultation. We will use results together with other sources to identify communication needs.

We invite you to participate in the poll below:

Note: Dispensing means to give one or more prescribed medication doses to a client to take at a later time. 

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