Registered nurse prescribing

Can nurses prescribe medicine? 

Yes – if they have completed the necessary requirements.
However, what they can prescribe depends on their qualifications and role.


Nurse prescribing in New Zealand isn’t new. Our highly qualified nurse practitioners have been prescribing medicine since 2001.

Today, a wider range of registered nurses (RNs) can undertake the additional education, training and supervision required by the Nursing Council of New Zealand to become an RN prescriber. RN prescribers can prescribe SOME medicines.

The number of RN prescribers in the South Island is expected to increase by around 30 each year to reach approximately 240 by 2025. This means easier access to the medicines and health care we need, with the same high levels of safety.

What can nurses prescribe? 

There are three levels of prescribing authority for nurses and each level has its own educational requirements:

  • Nurse practitioners are authorised to prescribe any prescription medicine.
  • RN prescribers in primary health and specialty teams can prescribe from a schedule of common medicines for common and long-term conditions.
  • RN prescribers in community health can prescribe from a limited schedule of medicines within their scope of practice (this role is currently being trialed as a pilot programme). 

You can check the Nursing Council of New Zealand register to see if and what a nurse is authorised to prescribe.

Registered nurse prescribing in the South Island

In the South Island, RN prescribing is supported as part of the collaborative team environment to meet identified population health needs. 

The South Island RN Prescribing Group, which comprises representatives from the five South Island DHBs, primary health organisations, New Zealand Nurses Organisation, University of Otago and Ara Institute of Canterbury, was established to develop an agreed South Island approach to RN prescribing. 

The following two documents were developed by the group and endorsed by the South Island directors of nursing:

•    South Island RN prescribing policy 
•    Framework for RN prescribing in the South Island health system 

These two documents will help inform how RN prescribing is implemented in local areas.

Want to become an RN prescriber?

Please discuss this with your nurse leader and check the South Island framework and policy.

More information

For more information about RN prescribing in the South Island, contact: kathryn.goodyear@siapo.health.nz