Can Nurses Prescribe Medications?

Some advanced practice registered nurses can prescribe medications for their patients.

Expressly, those working as licensed nurse practitioners may prescribe medications.

Nevertheless, a state’s legal guidelines can limit nurse practitioners’ medical prescriptions.

State laws can also require nurse practitioners to have a doctor present to write prescriptions.

Besides nurse practitioners, some certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) can prescribe medications within their state’s legal rights.

They may also require permission from the healthcare facility.

It ensures that healthcare providers carefully follow legal and safety requirements.

Nurse practitioners these professionals have a broad scope of practice within their field of care.

A nurse practitioner is an advanced practice registered nurse who has acquired a master’s of science or a doctorate of nursing practice degree.

Typically these professionals specialize in a healthcare field that focuses on specific patients.

It includes adult care, family care, geriatrics, pediatrics, mental health, and neonatal care, among other fields.

Nurse practitioners represent the broadest scope of practice within the nursing field.

In short, nurse practitioners provide the highest level of medical care within the nursing field.

As more nurse practitioners move into primary care and open their clinics, the educational requirements will continue to grow.

As a result, some states push toward nurse practitioners earning their doctoral degrees to provide certain levels of care.

In addition to prescribing medications, nurse practitioners diagnose diseases, provide treatment plans, and act as primary health care providers.

NPs work more independently within their profession than in any other area of nursing.

What About Registered Nurses?

Unlike nurse practitioners, the average registered nurse cannot prescribe medications or diagnose medical conditions.

It’s because they are not nurse practitioners and have not obtained an advanced degree.

However, they can administer medications, assist with treatments, record patient symptoms and medical histories, and monitor patient recovery.

Registered nurses are vital for helping patients recover from their ailments.

Nurses ensure patients receive the best care and medical assistance through rehabilitation programs and specialists.

Besides nurse practitioners and CRNAs, other specialists authorized to prescribe medications include dentists, physicians, optometrists, and veterinarians.

In contrast to prescription drugs, most over-the-counter (OTC) drugs do not require a prescription.

Nevertheless, customers may purchase over-the-counter drugs after the pharmacist has assessed their condition.

As a result, the drug can be sold or limited depending on whether it helps the individual’s condition.

Therefore, the individual should have ailments, conditions, and symptoms related to the drug treatment.

Which Nurses Can Prescribe Medications?

  • Nurse aides (cannot write prescriptions)
  • CNA or certified nurse assistant (cannot write prescriptions)
  • LPN or licensed practical nurse (cannot write prescriptions)
  • Registered nurses (cannot write prescriptions)
  • CRNA or certified registered nurse anesthetists (may write prescriptions under their state laws and guidelines)
  • Nurse practitioners (can write prescriptions under the laws and guidelines of their state)

To reiterate, nurse practitioners and CRNAs can prescribe medications as permitted by state law.

Conversely, registered nurses cannot prescribe medications but can administer medications.

Finally, nurse aides, CNAs, and LPNs work under the supervision of a physician or registered nurse.

While they have a limited scope in their field abilities, they are vital to the nursing community.

They help alleviate some of the stress and responsibilities of the RNs and physicians they assist.

What Medications Can a Nurse Practitioner Prescribe?

Nurse practitioners can prescribe medications to their patients within the state’s guidelines and authorizations.

Legal practices, state laws, federal regulations, and authorizations in the healthcare field constantly change and evolve.

As a result, practitioners who prescribe medications must consistently maintain compliance and remain up-to-date on state and legal changes.

In short, nurse practitioners must lawfully follow the latest state rules and regulations to prescribe medications to their patients.

Furthermore, states may limit specific medications based on the drug type, affecting what nurse practitioners can prescribe.

Regulated Prescription Medications may Include:

  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants
  • Birth control
  • Controlled substances (dependent upon state laws, federal regulations, the scope of practice, and medication use)
  • Narcotics (dependent upon state laws, federal regulations, their scope of practice, and medication use)
  • Suboxone, also known as buprenorphine hydrochloride and naloxone hydrochloride

Many states tightly regulate the use of controlled substances and narcotics.

Consequently, drugs are prohibited based on the particular drug, its use case, addictive properties, and medical/legal factors.

Medications may be Restricted or Prohibited Based on Whether it:

  • Has an acceptable medical use
  • Produces a low, moderate, or high potential for abuse, dependence, or addition
  • Has any significant drawbacks or potentially harmful side effects
  • Has received limited testing

Medications may be restricted based on potential issues the drug may cause under certain circumstances.

It includes negatively impacting medical conditions, dependency or addiction considerations, harmful side effects, and other causes for legal restrictions.


Although nurse practitioners/advanced practice registered nurses can prescribe medications to patients, their ability to prescribe medications varies state by state.

Some states offer full practice authority, allowing nurse practitioners to prescribe medications and perform healthcare duties autonomously.

In contrast, other states may allow for reduced or restricted practice authority.

Nurse practitioners may collaborate with physicians to prescribe medications or perform specific medical tasks in these cases.

Furthermore,  medications may require oversight by a physician, depending on the prescribed medicine.

In contrast, other medications may require little to no oversight.

It’s particularly valid in states with reduced or restricted practice authority.

It may also be true in cases where the nurse practitioner legally owns the clinic or practice.

In short, despite owning their practice, nurse practitioners can be required to work with a physician or legally acceptable medical supervisor.

You can learn about the state practice environment here on AANP and read this state-by-state guide on prescriptive authority.

What About Prescribing Out-of-State Medications?

Whether a nurse practitioner/advanced practice registered nurse can prescribe medications out of state depends on medical laws.

In some circumstances, nurse practitioners can prescribe medications out of state.

However, it depends on the state, federal, and nurse practitioner’s scope of practice.

All three laws must work mutually for a nurse practitioner to prescribe out-of-state medications.

Although one state may allow out-of-state prescriptions, another may restrict or completely ban them.

Furthermore, states may restrict specific medications or prescriptions based on the nurse practitioner’s scope of practice.

For example, if nurse practitioners operating in states don’t allow the prescription of certain medications, other states can prevent practitioners from prescribing those medications out of state.

Drug laws also play a significant role in prescribing medications out of state.

For instance, one state may allow for the prescription of medicinal marijuana while another deems it illegal.

In this case, nurse practitioners can prescribe the medication in their state but aren’t allowed to prescribe it in other states.

It’s especially valid when it comes to narcotics and controlled substances.

Some states may ban certain drugs regardless of the medical professional’s title.

In turn, this could make it impossible for a patient to gain access to a particular medication.

That said, state laws, federal laws, and medical professionals’ scope of practice continually evolve.

As a result, it steadily affects nurse practitioners, physicians, and healthcare providers’ ability to prescribe medications out of state.

Ultimately, primary care professionals must stay on top of medical law to ensure they’re legally prescribing medications.

Can Nurse Practitioners Prescribe Medication to Family Members?

A nurse practitioner’s ability to prescribe medication to family, friends or themselves depends on state law, federal laws, and scope of practice.

Customarily, it’s a best legal practice to recommend family members to another medical professional that prescribes medications.

Family members must enroll as patients in places where it’s legal to write family prescriptions.

It’s for obvious legal reasons, as prescribing medications without being a patient is illegal or risky.

Furthermore, it’s only possible in states that allow nurse practitioners to write prescriptions to family members.

With that said, nurse practitioners can write prescriptions for family members in certain circumstances.

For instance, an NP may prescribe medication in rural areas without facilities to get a prescription.

In these cases, the lack of healthcare centers allows nurse practitioners to prescribe medications for family members.

Can Nurse Practitioners Prescribe Medication to Friends?

Although it’s less of an issue for friends, nurse practitioners should follow the legal guidelines to the full extent.

It prevents potential legal risks with conflict of interest in business operations.

In short, some nurse practitioners will recommend friends to other offices if the prescribed medication could be a legal issue.

Nevertheless, if the nurse practitioner feels confident writing the prescription, it can be less of an issue than with family.

In either case, it’s advisable not to prescribe medications to family or close friends when possible.

Once again, this helps avoid conflict of interest and other legal issues.

Can Nurse Practitioners Prescribe Medication to Themselves?

Lastly, whether nurse practitioners can prescribe medications for themselves depends on state law, federal law, and scope of practice law.

However, it is highly inadvisable due to the potential for abuse and conflict of interest care.

As a result, nurse practitioners should have their prescriptions written by a trusted primary care professional.

After all, primary care professionals can diagnose, prescribe medications, and appropriately treat the practitioner’s condition.

Furthermore, it’s legally safer as there is less bias regarding which medications to prescribe and how much.