Provincial Health Officer Issues Order Authorizing RNs and RPNs to Prescribe OAT

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Provincial Health Officer Issues Order Authorizing RNs and RPNs to Prescribe OAT 

On September 16, 2020, Provincial Health Officer (PHO) Dr. Bonnie Henry issued a public health order authorizing BC’s Registered Nurses (RNs) and registered psychiatric nurses (RPNs) to prescribe opioid agonist treatment (OAT) as part of the province’s continued effort to combat the overdose crisis. 

Read the Announcement: Sept 16, 2020 – New public health order to help slow BC’s overdose crisis (Government of BC) 

The ability for RNs and RPNs to prescribe OAT will come with rigorous oversight and safeguards in place, including new standards, limits and conditions, in addition to education and clinical practice requirements established by the BC Centre on Substance Use. 

BC is facing two concurrent public health emergencies in the ongoing opioid overdose crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. 

BC’s opioid overdose crisis continued its unprecedented escalation over the past few years, with the rate of overdose deaths remaining relatively consistent in the years since 2017. Recently however, overdose deaths in BC have spiked, with over 900 deaths recorded since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, between January and July of 2020. 

“Giving physicians and nurse practitioners the ability to prescribe safer pharmaceutical alternatives has been critical to saving lives and linking more people to treatment and other health and social services.” 


- Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer 

The overdose crisis continues to be a top priority for the College and other public health organizations across the province. We will continue to collaborate with the Office of the Provincial Health Officer, the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions, the BC Centre on Substance Use and other health partners as we continue to address this health crisis. 

This policy directive is being urgently finalized and is expected to be released as soon as possible. The College will share more information regarding the public health order and how it impacts pharmacy professionals as it becomes available. 

Additional Resources 

Sep 16, 2020