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You Asked Us

Client care

Preventing nurse-to-client infections
I think I have the flu. If I call in sick, the unit will be short-staffed. Can I work?

If you have flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills and achiness, stay home. It may be difficult for you to work effectively and you may be contagious. Although it’s difficult knowing your absence might impact your colleagues’ work, you have a duty to protect your clients from the risk of infection. Staying home when ill is one way to do this. Washing your hands frequently and keeping your immunizations up to date are other ways to prevent infection and provide safe care to your clients.

The Communicable Diseases: Preventing Nurse-to-Client Transmission Practice Standard provides more information about your responsibilities to provide safe care to clients.

For personal reasons, I don’t want to/or can’t have a flu shot. Will I lose my licence if I refuse?

While you’re not required to have a flu shot to be registered with CRNBC, you are responsible for protecting your clients from the risk of infection. Nurses have a professional, ethical and legal duty to provide clients with safe care.

The Communicable Diseases: Preventing Nurse-to-Client Transmission Practice Standard provides more information about your responsibilities to provide safe care to clients.

The BC Ministry of Health has a policy for immunizations and health care staff. Be sure to check your employer’s policies for staff immunizations and influenza control.

I'm considering taking a job at a medical aesthetic clinic where I would administer Botox Cosmetic and dermal fillers. Is this within RN scope of practice?

Yes, administering Botox and dermal fillers are within RN scope of practice. Botox is a Schedule 1 medication. Dermal fillers are either Schedule 2 medications or substances. In all cases, you'll need a client-specific order from a physician or dentist and to meet the Standards for Acting with an Order.
CRNBC has recently clarified that RNs always require an order before compounding or administering dermal fillers (Scope of Practice for RNs, p. 24)
As these procedures come with potential client risks, there are many things to consider before carrying out these activities. We recommend you review the following resources:

The CRNBC library has helpful resources related to dermatological nursing. In addition, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia and the College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia have information relevant to nurses administering Botox Cosmetic and dermal fillers. Please contact if you have any questions.

In our clinic, we use sclerosing agents to treat varicose veins. Do I need an order to administer these?

Yes, you need an order. Although many sclerosing agents are Schedule II medications, you would administer these agents to treat a disorder, such as varicose veins, only after a physician has assessed the client, diagnosed the disorder and ordered the sclerotherapy.

RNs can administer Schedule II medications without an order to treat a condition they’ve diagnosed, but we’re not aware of any conditions that RNs could treat autonomously by administering a sclerosing agent.

See the Scope of Practice for Registered Nurses for more information and guidance.

Can I recommend herbal supplements to my clients?

When recommending or participating in complementary and alternative health care (CAHC) practices, your primary duty continues to be providing ethical and competent care. If you are recommending any CAHC practice, you must:

  • provide evidenced-based information.
  • ensure it does not pose a greater risk to the client than conventional treatment
  • ensure it does not interfere with other current treatments

Visit the complementary & alternative health care page for more information.

In our facility, we provide residents with medications when they leave on day pass. What’s our responsibility when we do this?

If a pharmacist has already dispensed your client's medications to your unit or agency, you’re responsible for taking steps to ensure proper use. This includes:

  • making sure the medication is labelled and packaged appropriately for the client,
  • providing your client with information about the medication, including its purpose, possible side effects, and when and how to take it
  • documenting the dispensed medications on the client’s record

The Dispensing Medications Practice Standard provides clear direction for labelling, packaging, client education and documentation. Agency policies should reflect these requirements.

I work in a rural community hospital. Sometimes our local physician phones in a prescription for someone who is not a client. We don’t have a pharmacist on site, so we are asked to fill it when the person comes to the ER. Should we do this?

Unless the person is a client under your care, you should not dispense medications to them. The Dispensing Medications Practice Standard sets clear requirements for nurses when dispensing.

Agency policy and practice should support appropriate dispensing by nurses. If you are not able to meet the expectations set out in the practice standard, document this issue and discuss it with your manager.

What is the difference between preparing and pre-pouring medications? Can I pre-pour medications?

Preparing medications is part of the process of medication administration. Preparation includes selecting, calculating, crushing, breaking, mixing, labelling, drawing up, popping out, etc. You should prepare medications as close as possible to the time you administer them.

Pre-pouring medications is preparing medications in advance and storing them until you or others need them. Examples of this practice include:

  • Drawing up and labelling an IV medication for another nurse to administer later
  • Removing client medications from a blister pack, placing them in labelled medication cups, stacking the cups in the medication room, and administering them throughout your shift
  • Preparing a PRN medication in a syringe, labelling it and administering it throughout your shift and/or leaving it for other nurses to administer later

You should not pre-pour medications as it can blur the accountability for making sure the seven rights are met and/or increases the possibility of errors.

If you can’t administer medications immediately after preparing them, make sure they are securely stored. Follow your agency policies and use your professional judgment when deciding how far in advance to prepare your medications.

There are some situations where you may share the responsibility for preparing and administering medications. Examples include:

  • In a life threatening situation, when the client’s need for medications is urgent, you draw up and label medications and another nurse gives them
  • You start an IV infusion that other nurses will be responsible for maintaining

You’ll find more information and guidance in the Medication Administration practice standard.

Can I carry out orders taken verbally and recorded by a pharmacist?

Yes, pharmacists can accept verbal orders from authorized health professionals and dispense medications accordingly. You may use the dispensing label in place of the health professional’s order, provided the medication is in the original pharmacy container and your agency permits it.

Can an RN dispense narcotics?

Yes, RNs can dispense medications, including narcotics, to clients under their care. RNs must meet the requirements set out in the Dispensing Medications Practice Standard and follow agency policy.

How much charting is enough so that I am "legally covered"?

Your documentation should provide a clear picture of your client's status, your actions and client's outcomes and include:

  • your assessment of the client's health status, nursing diagnoses and plan of care
  • interventions carried out, client's response and any changes to the plan of care
  • information and concerns reported to another health care provider and the provider's response
  • any advocacy carried out on behalf of your client

There are no laws in B.C. that say what and how much nurses must document. The requirements come from legislation, case law, Standards of Practice and agency policies. Documenting is a way to show you have applied nursing knowledge, skills and judgement and met the legal standard of care. Document according to agency policy — these should reflect legislative and other requirements.

The Documentation practice standard provides information and direction for your documentation.

Sometimes I am unable to complete all my client assessments according to our protocols. What should I chart in the client’s record?

Chart the care you provided to ensure your client’s well-being, including any assessments, nursing interventions and changes to the client’s plan of care. Communicate to your manager that you were unable to follow protocols and outline the circumstances that prevented you from doing so. Complete a safety event report if directed by your agency policy.

Refer to the Documentation practice standard for more information and guidance.

How do I document things like hourly rounds or sleeping patients on night shift?

That depends on your agency's documentation method and tools. When documenting narratively on progress notes, record your observations and actions. Describe what you actually observed such as “Appeared to be sleeping on hourly checks” rather than non-descriptive phrases like "Had a good night." Use client quotes to illustrate your observations.

Flow sheets or clinical pathways can be also be used to document routine and regularly recorded care and observations such as activities of daily living and routine checks.  If used, these tools should communicate who performed the assessment or intervention and the meaning of any symbols such as check marks.

Regardless of the method used, your documentation should communicate that you were monitoring your clients at appropriate intervals. Although flow sheets do not include a narrative description, they can confirm you checked your clients.

For more information and guidance, refer to the Documentation practice standard.

Scope of practice
What is the difference between pronouncement and certification of death? Can RNs or NPs do either?

Pronouncement of death is the opinion or determination that, based on a physical assessment, life has ceased. Although there are presently no laws in B.C. governing who can pronounce death, your employer may have policies and procedures related to this.

Certification of death refers to the completion of the death certificate identifying the cause of death. Currently, only physicians, nurse practitioners and coroners can complete and sign death certificates. Registered nurses cannot.

You can find more information on completing death certificates in the BC Government’s Handbook for Physicians, Nurse Practitioners and Coroners.

Do I need to be CRNBC-certified to carry out pelvic exams and Pap smears?

No, carrying out pelvic exams and Pap smears is within the scope for practice for all RNs.

If you’re carrying out these activities, you’ll need to meet the Standards for Acting without An Order (p. 13). This includes making sure you have the necessary competencies and follow the DSTs established by the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) (p. 21).

I work in an STI clinic where I do assessments and physical exams, collect specimens, and provide counselling and education. Do I need to be CRNBC-certified?

Not necessarily. These activities are within the scope of practice for all RNs. However, if your role includes autonomously diagnosing and/or treating specific diseases and disorders with Schedule 1 (prescription level) medications, you’ll need to be CRNBC-certified.

I work in the emergency department of a rural hospital. Carrying out “emergency activities” is part of my job. My employer says the emergency exemption covers these situations.

The emergency exemption generally does not apply in this situation.

The Health Professions Act's emergency exemption is meant to deal with situations that:

  • arise unexpectedly;
  • involve imminent risk of death or serious harm; and
  • require urgent action.

The emergency exemption does not cover activities that are an expectation of a nurse’s role, including activities that would be expected to arise from time to time in the ordinary course of your employment. Neither you nor your employer should rely on the emergency exemption to allow you to carry out activities considered an expectation of practice in your setting.

You’ll find more information and guidance about scope of practice in the Scope of Practice for RNs: Standards, Limits and Conditions.

Is incision and drainage of an abscess part of CRNBC-certified practice?

No, incision and drainage is outside the scope of practice of CRNBC-certified nurses. Nurse practitioners are the only nurses who may perform this intervention. Check Certified Practice and Scope of Practice for NPs for more information and guidance on scope.

Some of my clients do not have a primary care provider. When the care they need is outside my scope and I don’t have an NP or physician to consult with or refer them to, what can I do?

These situations are usually beyond an individual nurse’s control and often require a systems level approach for resolution.

In these types of situations, you could:

  • Consult with your colleagues and/or others to identify possible options such as setting up a process for contacting and getting orders from a community physician or NP, at a walk-in/telemedicine clinic or in a nearby emergency room
  • Discuss the situation with your manager/supervisor, identifying the concerns and possible courses of actions
  • Follow up the discussion with appropriate documentation
  • Advocate for safe and appropriate client care by helping to develop policies and practices to address these situations

Resolving Professional Practice Problems can help guide you through this problem-solving process. The Professional Standards and Duty to Provide Care practice standard may provide additional information and direction.

I work in a department where patients call and ask for advice. Can I give advice over the phone?

When you give advice over the phone you are accountable for the care you provide. By answering the phone you initiate a nurse-client relationship and a duty to provide care. When offering telephone advice you must have the competence to assess the health needs of callers and provide appropriate advice, including referring to other services. You must also follow agency policy.

Your ability to assess a situation over the phone may be influenced by:

  • lack of opportunity to observe the client
  • communication and/or language barriers
  • the caller’s ability  to accurately describe the situation
  • the caller’s emotional state
  • your skill in asking appropriate questions

Recognize when providing advice over the phone is not appropriate.

When documenting the call, include:
  • date and time
  • caller’s name and  number
  • reason for call 
  • any assessment data and conclusions drawn
  • any advice given, including when to seek further care
  • your signature and title

Your agency policies should outline the required competencies, the type of advice you may give and documentation processes. They should also include guidelines for informing clients about when and how to seek further care.

Your agency policies should outline the required competencies, the type of advice you may give and documentation processes. They should also include guidelines for informing clients about when and how to seek further care. The Telehealth, Boundaries in the Nurse-Client Relationship, Consent and Documentation practice standards will provide further information and guidance about your responsibilities when providing advice over the phone.

 Need help?

For further information on the Standards of Practice or professional practice matters, contact us:

  • Telephone 604.736.7331 ext. 332
  • Toll-free in Canada 1.800.565.6505
  • Email
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