Department of Health

Nurse practitioners – legislative requirements

Key messages

  • Nurse practitioners are authorised to prescribe and/or supply any Schedule 2,3,4 or 8 medicine.

Nurse practitioners in Victoria

A nurse practitioner is authorised to obtain, possess, use, supply or prescribe substances in Schedules 2, 3, 4 or 8 that are approved by the Minister for Health, in the lawful practice of their profession as a nurse practitioner (s. 13 of the Act). From 23 July 2020 the Minister for Health has approved for the use, sale or supply of any Schedule 2, 3, 4 or 8 poison. 

A nurse practitioner’s authorisation does not extend to:

  • supplying medicines that have been prescribed by another registered health practitioner (e.g. for themselves, spouse or employees) – that is the role of a pharmacist 
  • supplying medicines or poisons by wholesale – this activity requires a wholesale licence.
The scope of practice of individual nurse practitioners is supported by their employer’s clinical governance framework. Nurse practitioners are also guided by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia’s professional practice framework.  It details how professional decision making within a sound risk management, professional, regulatory and legislative framework is to be managed. 

Important clarification

In general, regulatory requirements are applicable to each nurse practitioner but the circumstances of employment need to be considered to ensure compliance with the regulations.

Hospitals (and some other health service providers) are authorised to possess and use scheduled medicines in accordance with the conditions of a Health Services Permit (HSP). The HSP is specific to each permit holder. It contains details relating to the manner in which medicines are to be obtained, stored, used, recorded and destroyed.

The HSP may contain requirements that are more specific or additional to the regulatory requirements that relate, in general, to nurse practitioners. The HSP is commonly controlled by the Director of Nursing or Director of Pharmacy and should be available for perusal by relevant staff; in some cases, it is available on a hospital’s intranet.

However, if a nurse practitioner is not practising under the auspices of a health services provider, issues relating to the manner in which scheduled medicines are obtained, possessed, used, recorded and destroyed will be the sole responsibility of the nurse practitioner to whom the medicines are supplied.

Nurse practitioners and lawful treatment

Nurse practitioners are authorised under the Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981 (the Act) to obtain, possess, use or supply scheduled poisons for the lawful practice of their profession, i.e. for the medical treatment of patients under their care.

The Poisons Standard lists all scheduled poisons and contains standards with which nurse practitioners must comply, including the labelling requirements for dispensed medicines.

The Drugs Poisons and Controlled Substances Regulations 2017 contain the majority of regulatory requirements, relating to scheduled poisons, with which nurse practitioners must comply.

Safe, lawful and appropriate treatment

In addition to the requirement to ensure treatment is lawful, nurse practitioners are required to meet professional standards that are contained in other legislation and that are determined by the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Australia.

Nurse practitioners should not issue a prescription or otherwise authorise treatment without satisfying themselves that it is safe, appropriate and lawful to treat the patient with the medication. Issuing a prescription or otherwise authorising treatment, simply because another practitioner has done so, is unlikely to satisfy the regulatory requirement to take 'all reasonable steps' to ensure there is a therapeutic need.

This website contains forms for nurse practitioners to use if they wish to apply for permits to prescribe Schedule 8 poisons, including pharmacotherapy (opioid-replacement therapy) for opioid-dependent patients. To access the online version of these forms, refer to the section for commonly used online forms.

This website contains documents, in the section for documents to print or download, which summarise the legislative requirements and issues that relate to all registered nurses and midwives.

Nurses and midwives

Matters that relate to many health practitioners

Reviewed 18 November 2021

Health.vic

Contact details

Postal address: Medicines and Poisons Regulation Department of Health GPO Box 4057 Melbourne VIC 3001

Medicines and Poisons Regulation Department of Health

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