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Difference between a directive and prescribing

Is implementing a directive the same as prescribing?

No. Implementing a directive and prescribing are different.

Prescribing is the act of writing an order for a procedure, treatment, drug or intervention. Prescribing applies to an individual patient.  The person who writes the prescription/order is accountable.  

A directive is a type of written order given to a nurse to perform an activity or procedure.  Directives are intended for multiple patients when specific conditions are met and certain circumstances exist. For example, mass vaccination clinics. Nurses are accountable for their decision to implement the directive.

Nurses who implement directives are accountable for ensuring that they understand the directive. They must make sure the directive contains all of the information they need to carry out the order safely. They must also determine if it is an appropriate order by considering the patient, the activity/procedure and the environment. Additionally, nurses must make sure they have the knowledge, skill and judgement to perform the activity.

It is also important to have organizational policies in place that clearly outline how to identify the physician or NP responsible for the care of the patient so they can be contacted with questions or to clarify the order for their patient.

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Page last reviewed June 07, 2022