Can LPNs Administer Medication?

In a broad statement, yes, a Licensed Practical Nurse can administer medication, it just depends on the kind. It is always very important to know and understand your scope of practice, no matter your job type, but especially if you are a nurse. Working as a nurse, you are held accountable for more things than you realize, so being diligent about practicing within your scope is a must. During clinical you will be bathing patients, changing their bed linens, administering oral medications, performing wound care, and so much more. Although it can be a very fun learning environment, it can also be very stressful having to do so much along with paperwork. However, it is worth it to see your knowledge growing at an incredible speed.

Medications You Can Administer

It is best to start off by saying every institution has different policies, procedures, rules, and regulations. If the institutions are following the LPN’s scope of practice, it is ultimately up to them on what you can and cannot do. These decisions may vary based on your experience level or other factors. For every medication, it is important for the nurse to know what the drug does, the side effects it may have, other medications it cannot be given with, etc. Always remember that every choice you make is on you, especially in the court of law. It does not matter who told you to do it, or how busy your colleague was that asked for the help - you gave the medication, so it is on you. That is why it is so very important to always assess your patients and know what you are administering. For narcotics, the Licensed Practical Nurse may give oral pain medication. Oral medications have a longer peak of action than, say, pushing a similar pain medication through an IV. When you push any type of medication through an IV, the results are extremely quick. The Licensed Practical Nurse can also give insulin injections, but it’s good to keep in mind that some of these insulin medications can have very quick outcomes, so it is important for the nurse to assess before and after administering it. The nurse can also give oral chemotherapy drugs, watching closely for side effects after the medication has been given.

Medications You Cannot Administer

Although most oral medications can be administered by a Licensed Practical Nurse, if the nurse is not fully contextualized with the medication being given, it is sometimes better for a higher-level team member such as a Registered Nurse to take over. The Licensed Practical Nurse is not permitted to give any type of drug through an IV line (depending on the state). The LPN may flush a peripheral IV line in preparation for the Registered Nurse to give an IV medication, but the LPN cannot actually give it.

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Different employers have different regulations. For some medications that you could freely give at one institution, another employer may require you to undergo some type of training before you can actually administer it. RNs are able to give medications with a higher risk of unknown outcomes such as IV medications, while it would be out of the scope of practice for LPNs. 

A nurse may ask you to go give a certain medication that is not in your scope of practice or that your facility does not allow because he/she is “busy”, but you have to keep in mind the results of this outcome is on you and nobody else. Risking losing your license is not worth saving a little time for someone else. You could simply say it is not in your scope of practice but if there is anything else they may need help with you would be glad to do it. Saying this does not imply that you are bad at what you do, or that the Registered Nurse is better than you; rather, it is saying that although you probably could do these duties without causing harm to the patient, it is not within your scope of practice and puts you at risk of losing your license if you choose to do it anyway.

Practice Safely

No matter what setting you choose to work in, you will more than likely be giving some type of medication. Though you may be under the supervision of an RN or physician for most things, sometimes you will only have yourself. Do what is right, not what is quickest. Your patients are real people, and these are real lives that are in your hands. Keep what you have learned at school and on the job in the forefront of your mind to make sure you are always within your scope of practice.