Registered Nurse Prescribing

Overview Designated Prescriber: Registered nurses practising in primary health and specialty teams

Appropriately-qualified registered nurses, working in collaborative teams within primary health care and specialist services, are now able to prescribe for common and long-term conditions.

Registered nurse prescribing is designed to improve patient access to health care and medicines and to meet the demand of growing numbers of New Zealanders with lifestyle and chronic health conditions.

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The Medicines (Designated Prescriber – Registered Nurses) Regulations 2016 made under sections 105 and 105B of the Medicines Act 1981 came into place on 20 September 2016. This allowed registered nurses to write prescriptions for common and long-term conditions.

Nurses who prescribe will be working in collaborative teams within primary health care and specialist services including general practice, specialist outpatient clinics, family planning, sexual health, public health, district and home care, and rural and remote areas. It is important that they work in a team, so they can consult a doctor or nurse practitioner when they need advice on diagnosis or treatment if the patient’s health concerns are more complex than they can manage.

The specific conditions they will be able to prescribe for include diabetes and related conditions, hypertension, respiratory diseases including asthma and COPD, anxiety, depression, heart failure, gout, palliative care, contraception, vaccines, common skin conditions and infections. They are only able to prescribe from a restricted list of medicines.

To be authorised by the Nursing Council to prescribe, nurses will have had to complete a post-graduate diploma in prescribing which includes a period of practising under the supervision of an experienced prescriber.  People will be able to check on the Register of Nurses on the Council website to see if a nurse is authorised to prescribe.

Nurses working in these areas are already regularly involved in medicines management and education of patients. Nurses working in diabetes care have been prescribing for five years. This has been found to be safe and has been well-received by patients and by doctors who have appreciated being freed up to work with more complex cases.

The expansion of prescribing builds on the success of Registered nurse prescribing in diabetes health and has been developed following a consultation completed by the Nursing Council in 2013. Overseas experience in Australia, Canada and the UK also shows that nurse prescribing is safe and acceptable to consumers. The evidence also indicates that nurses are conservative prescribers and tend to prescribe in line with recommended best practice.

Registered nurse prescribing is designed to:

  • improve patient access to health care and medicines
  • make it easier for patients to obtain the medicines they need
  • increase patient choice in accessing medicines
  • make better use of the skills of health professionals
  • improve access for those groups who find it difficult to access services currently including those with lower socioeconomic resources, children, youth, Maori, Pacific peoples and those in remote and rural locations.

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