Q. Nurse life care planners can’t prescribe, can they?

A. Yes, we can. There is no legal requirement in any state in the US for all goods and services for a patient’s care to be prescribed (sometimes termed, “ordered”)  by a physician. It’s important not to confuse an insurance plan’s requirement to have a physician prescription for a billable product or service, or the legal requirement for physicians to prescribe medication, with the registered nurse life care planner’s ability to assess and recommend.

The law requires some things (such as medications and surgery) to be prescribed or performed by physicians, but insurance companies only require that most goods and services be ordered by physicians for billing purposes. My registered nurse professional licensure, certification, experience, education, standards of practice, and ethics are backed by the nurse practice act in every state. I am qualified, as a registered nurse life care planner, to prescribe a plan of care after assessing the patient’s response to injury or illness. Although as a certified nurse life care planner I will collaborate with members of the treating team, most life care plan components will not be involved with a health insurance contract and do not require physician signature. The evaluations and other aspects of my life care plans are within my professional licensure to prescribe.

*Update May 2014: Wondering how the ACA will affect life care planning? Most  life care plan items aren’t covered by health insurance! Be sure your life care planner is licensed to do the functional assessment that is the basis for the plan’s recommendations. Hint: Look for the initials “RN”!