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Nurse Practitioners and Prescribers

Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Prescribers – who are they and what do they do?

You may have read about or seen medical professionals with the job title of Nurse Prescriber, and others with Nurse Practitioner. What’s the difference between these two, and what do they mean?

The first thing to note is that a prescriber is someone who can write orders for medicines (prescribe them to patients). The most common of these is a Doctor, but there are other health professionals that can do this too; the specific medicines they can prescribe depends on their job title and the level of training that they have done. Nurse Practitioners and Prescribers fall into this group, along with Dentists, Pharmacists, and others.

Nurse Practitioner

A Nurse Practitioner is a registered Nurse that has gone on to do further study and attained the skills needed to work at, or run a medical practice without needing a Doctor to be there. Nurse Practitioners work at a higher level than registered nurses and can diagnose health conditions and prescribe medications on their own. Many Nurse Practitioners work in primary care and, like a General Practitioner (GP), they are often the senior healthcare provider there.

To become a Nurse Practitioner, a nurse needs to have been registered for at least four years, complete a clinical Masters’ degree, be supervised in a clinic for at least 300 hours, and pass an assessment in front of a panel. They also must prove every three years they are still up to date with their knowledge and skills.

Nurse Prescriber

A Nurse Prescriber is a nurse who is authorised to prescribe some medications to patients. Because of New Zealand’s ageing population and the increasing need for medications, nurse prescribers are helping to share the load of getting common medications to those who need it, without needing the extensive training of high-level medical professionals.

Nurse Prescribers can prescribe medications for a specific list of long-term, common health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and hypertension (high blood pressure), although the list of medications they can prescribe is more limited than that of a Nurse Practitioner.

To become a Nurse Prescriber, a nurse needs to have been registered for three years, complete a Postgraduate Diploma, and be part of a collaborative team so they can consult with a doctor if a patient’s health issues are more complicated than they can manage on their own.

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