On This Page

Administering naloxone in emergencies

In emergency situations, can RNs and RPNs administer naloxone by injection or inhalation without an order?

Yes, but you have to consider provisions under the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1991 (RHPA) and your practice environment to determine if you can. Here is why: In most cases, RNs and RPNs need an order to perform the controlled act of administering a substance by injection or inhalation. However, the RHPA lists several exceptions when people can perform controlled acts in defined circumstances. One of these is when you are providing first aid or temporary assistance in an emergency. Nevertheless, your practice environment (such as the client population, types of services you provide and chance of unpredictable events occurring) affect whether or not this emergency exception applies.

Here is one example: if you provide care to clients with opioid-use disorder at a supervised injection site, your role may include administering naloxone when required. Knowing that you will probably be expected to administer, you can work with other health professionals and your employer to have an order in place for when you need to provide first aid or temporary assistance in an emergency. As well, you can advocate for any policies and procedures that may be required.

If the emergency exception does not apply, you need an order to administer naloxone by injection or inhalation. That order could be a direct order or a directive. Whoever has the decision-making authority in the practice environment must identify which option (i.e., emergency exception or order) is appropriate.

Regardless of whether the exception applies, nurses must meet the same expectations as any procedure when administering naloxone.

These expectations include:

  • being accountable for the decision to perform the controlled act and for its performance
  • considering the client’s needs and best interests, and determining whether the client’s condition warrants the performance of the procedure
  • having the knowledge, skill and judgment to perform the procedure safely and ethically 
  • ensuring the practice environment has the appropriate resources to perform the procedure safely, and managing reasonably expected outcomes
  • participating in all aspects of assessment and management of the procedure and its outcomes, and documenting this information

Related links

Page last reviewed June 07, 2022