Calgary

Alberta registered nurses to prescribe drugs, order X-rays

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman says the government will bring in new rules that will allow registered nurses to prescribe drugs in travel clinics, as part of sexually transmitted infection programs and at workplace health and safety clinics.

Changes tied to specific areas and do not include controlled drugs, substances

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman announced expanded roles for registered nurses and nurse practitioners in Alberta. (CBC)

Alberta's health minister says the province is expanding the ability of registered nurses to prescribe drugs and order X-rays.

Nurses will have to have extra education and authorization to be able to take on the additional medical responsibilities.

Sarah Hoffman says the government will bring in new rules that will allow registered nurses to prescribe drugs in travel clinics, as part of sexually transmitted infection programs and at workplace health and safety clinics.

Registered nurses will now be allowed to prescribe drugs, including:

  • Travel clinics: Hepatitis A and B vaccines, and antibiotics/chemoprophylaxis like Ciprofloxacin.
  • Occupational Health and Safety: Tetanus shots, Hepatitis B vaccines or Pneumococcal vaccines.
  • Sexually transmitted infection program: Azithromycin and Septra (for chlamydia or a urinary tract infection).

Registered nurses will not be allowed to prescribe controlled drugs and substances.

They will be able to order X-rays, urinalysis tests and swabs for cultures, and do blood count drug level tests for antibioitics.

The idea, Hoffman said, is to provide timely access to care, especially for home care patients and patients in long-term care.

"Definitely for rural and remote communities. Also for nurses who are working with patients who have a hard time with mobility. Having this ability to prescribe, I think, will make a big difference," she said. 

Health Minister Sarah Hoffman is joined by students of Mount Royal University’s nursing program for Friday's announcement. (Government of Alberta)

A 'milestone'

Dennie Hycha, president of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta, calls the changes a milestone for registered nursing.

"Albertans will actually have more access to medications and tests when they need them and when it's most appropriate," Hycha said.

Hoffman praised nurses for the vital role they play in health care.

"I'm proud our government is supporting nurses to use their front-line expertise and training to help Albertans get the care they need sooner and closer to home," she said in a release Friday.

The new regulations will come into effect in May 2019.

With files from Jennifer Lee

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