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Athabasca University

RN Prescribing

A change to the Alberta Registered Nurses Profession Regulation (Health Professions Act) — to come into effect on May 1, 2019 — will authorize registered nurses to prescribe common medications and order diagnostic tests, such as x-rays. Initially, the new authority for RNs will be limited to specific clinical practice areas where the employer has policies to support RN prescribing and a clinical support tool to clearly guide prescribing decisions.

The College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta (CARNA) has approved Standards of Practice for Registered Nurses, which includes completion of a nursing education course offered by Athabasca University’s Faculty of Health Disciplines. (Read more about the new regulations and requirements for prescribing on the CARNA website.)

AU’s RN Prescribing course comprises two CARNA-approved modules that will prepare nurses to meet the competencies for prescribing drugs and ordering diagnostic tests.

Please note:Nurses from outside Alberta should consult with their College of Nursing to determine whether this course meets the standards established by that jurisdiction.

The two modules in the RN Prescribing course can be taken concurrently or sequentially:

  1. RN Prescribing Module 1: Competencies, Req uirements and Standards (online self-paced)
  2. RN Prescribing Module 2: Knowledge-based Practice - Prescribing Medications and Ordering Diagnostic Tests (13-week online paced)


The RN Prescribing online course was developed primarily for registered nurses and registered psychiatric nurses who work in jurisdictions where RN prescribing has been approved. This course may also be of interest and utility to registered nurses in other areas who wish to learn more about prescribing and the ordering of diagnostic tests.

Module 1 of the RN Prescribing course is self-paced, self-study consisting of five units. It addresses legal, ethical and regulatory competencies, as well as those related to client safety and professional practice responsibilities.

Module 2 of the RN Prescribing course comprises 10 units offered over 13 weeks in an online, paced format. The module addresses knowledge-based competencies for RN prescribing, including pharmacologic principles, pathophysiology, client assessment, pharmacotherapeutics, side effects and contraindications, diagnostic testing and interpretation, consultation, follow-up and referral.

This module is offered each semester and a minimum of 10 registrants is required for the module to be offered. See the FHD website for information about semester dates.


In order to meet the criteria for RN Prescribing established by CARNA, registered nurses must have 3,000 hours of practice as a registered nurse, 750 of which must be in the area where the RN wishes to prescribe. Nurses from jurisdictions other than Alberta should consult their College of Nursing.

Cost and registration

Module 1 C$300 + GST (non-refundable)
Module 2 C$600 + GST (non-refundable)

Register online by completing and submitting the Professional Development Registration Form. You will need a valid credit card in order to register.

Course goals

The RN Prescribing course builds on basic foundational knowledge of pathophysiology, pharmacology and patient assessment acquired as a registered nurse or register psychiatric nurse. Successful completion of the course will prepare you to meet CARNA’s requirements for prescribing drugs and ordering diagnostic tests.

A Certificate of Completion is awarded when you have successfully completed all of the course quizzes and learning activities.

Learning outcomes

Upon completion of Module 1, you will be able to:

  • understand the scope, privileges and limitations in RN prescribing as described in Alberta legislation
  • interpret CARNA documents and how they reflect the law and CARNA’s duty to protect the public on behalf of the Government of Alberta
  • understand your employer’s obligation to provide you with specific guidance with regards to prescribing and ordering tests
  • understand the limits of your own expertise and the site-specific prescribing authority, and determine when the patient/client should be referred to another health care provider
  • read and interpret an algorithm

Upon completion of Module 2 you will be able to:

  • understand and use the principles of pharmacology when prescribing
  • integrate diagnostic reasoning with the nursing process when prescribing medications
  • minimize risk to the patient/client using rational drug selection principles
  • individualize strategies to encourage adherence to the plan of care
  • document and provide appropriate follow-up with respect to the prescribing of medications
  • evaluate the need for testing or imaging, using critical thinking and clinical reasoning
  • understand the responsibilities associated with ordering tests of any kind
  • interpret basic tests, including liver and kidney function
  • consult with the appropriate team member in the case of abnormal test results
  • accurately document and follow-up any tests or imaging that you have ordered

Course structure

Module 1 of the RN Prescribing course is self-paced and consists of five units which include learning activities, readings and reflective exercises. These are offered at various intervals to enhance your self-study process. Each unit contains several short quizzes designed to reinforce critical knowledge. You may take the quizzes as many times as you wish.

Module 2 of the RN Prescribing course consists of 10 units which run over 13 weeks. This is a paced online module offered each semester, and a minimum of 10 registrants is needed for the module to be offered. (See the FHD website for information about semester dates.) The instructor and class members will participate in unit conferences and in videoconferencing sessions to discuss unit content and related issues. With the exception of the videoconferencing sessions, students can complete the course work at times of their choosing. That is, there is no structured class time. Students will be expected to complete two case studies and a final exam.

When you finish both modules in the RN Prescribing course, you will be invited to complete the course evaluation, which will inform future revisions.

Course materials

For this course, you will need to obtain the following textbook, which is available from Amazon or through the publisher’s website:

Pharmacotherapeutics for Advanced Practice Nurse Prescribers, by Woo & Robinson (2016)

All other resources are web-based or are provided within the course study guide.

Time commitment

Module 1 of this course will require approximately 15 hours of study.

Module 2 runs for 13 weeks. You should anticipate spending 2-3 hours per week over 13 weeks. (This course is offered each semester. See the FHD website for information about semester dates.)

Technical requirements

To successfully complete this course, you must have ready access to a computer with reliable Internet access.

Updated March 01 2019 by Student & Academic Services

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