When Can an Advance Practice Nurse Write a Prescription in Illinois?

Nurse wearing surgical mask and writing on clipboard


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Nurse Practitioners can prescribe medication in all 50 states.

However, the degree of independence with which they can do so and which classification of drugs they can legally prescribe varies from state to state.

In Illinois, someone who is licensed by the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) as an advanced practice nurse (APN) has the authority to prescribe medications to their patients without a doctor’s oversight.

Advanced practice nurses include titles such as:

  • Certified nurse practitioner (CNP)
  • Certified nurse-midwife (CNM)
  • Certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), or
  • Clinical nurse specialist (CNS)

A nurse holding one of these credentials has a broad scope of practice and can independently prescribe drugs listed as Schedule 3 or above.

Let’s look at some limitations on when nurse practitioners can write prescriptions, some exceptions, and how you can get help.

Limitations on Prescribing for Nurse Practitioners

IDFPR limits an APN’s ability to prescribe some Schedule 3 drugs, requiring, in some cases, delegated authority from a supervising physician.

What is more, for a nurse practitioner prescribe medication to be able to prescribe or administer Schedule 2 drugs in Illinois, even acting under a physician’s orders, they must:

  • Complete a minimum of 45 hours of graduate education in pharmacology
  • Complete 5 hours of continuing education annually (225 ILCS 65)
  • Obtain a specialized degree from an approved nursing program, and
  • Typically have a graduate degree and pass state examinations

By comparison, registered nurses are not allowed to prescribe medications independently. For registered nurses, a physician order is always required to prescribe controlled substances.

While an RN is often asked to prepare patient medical histories, record symptoms, monitor patient recovery, and assist with medical treatments, RNs are not allowed to diagnose patients, write treatment plans, or prescribe medications.

Exceptions to the Rule

There are a few exceptions that allow nurses of all types to act more independently.

In an emergency, an RN may be permitted to administer certain medications by his or her employer. Outside of work, nurses can also administer medications and are typically protected from liability under the Good Samaritan laws on the books in every state.

Today, an increasing number of healthcare facilities have implemented standing orders for nurses, which allows them to provide certain medications to patients without a direct order from a physician. These orders must be precise, they should detail what nurses can do under certain circumstances with a particular type of patient.

With these standing orders, healthcare facilities are giving their nurses more leeway in prescribing medications while still protecting them from potential liability.

Protect Your License. Call 1818 Today.

When it comes to your license, err on the side of caution.

If you are a nurse but not an APN, the best way to avoid the appearance of practicing without a proper license is to follow all rules and regulations and contact a professional licensing attorney if you have any concerns or questions.

Jordan Matyas

Jordan Matyas

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Jordan Matyas is a lawyer, lobbyist, and Founder of 1818 Legal, an Illinois professional licensing defense law firm he created in 2014. With more than 18 years of experience practicing law, he represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including professional license defense, administrative law, land use and zoning, and state, local, and municipal law.

Jordan received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois — Chicago School of Law and is a member of the Illinois Bar Association.