Topic 16: What is a PRN?

What Are PRN’s

PRN is a Latin abbreviated term standing for pro re nata, translating to as the need arises. The term PRN is used when administering medications that are given “as needed“.

  • Each client has a PRN protocol that gives direction to how to administer as needed medications.
  • For example, a pain medication that can be given as PRN is Acetaminophen 500 mg PO every 406 hours as needed for pain.
  • Some clients may have several PRN’s that are given for different reasons. PRN’s can be given at different times with differing doses.
  • You will need to check the client’s PRN protocols for determining when they can be given, and why the would need the PRN. This must be done before administering the medications.

Always discuss with your co-worker before administering a PRN.

If it is not clear about which PRN to give, contact the appropriate pharmacist for direction.

Example: The client may have both Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen ordered for pain management.  Does the PRN protocol indicate specifically what symptoms each medication is ordered for?  Is the Acetaminophen ordered for headaches?  Is the Ibuprofen ordered for knee pain? If there are any questions, the pharmacist can help you decide which PRN would best support the client in managing their symptoms.  

After Giving a PRN, What to Expect Next

There are several steps that need to be done once you and your co-worker have decided to give a PRN. You will need to properly document that a PRN was given.

  • Initial the MAR on the right date and time for that medication.
  • On the PRN Usage Log for that medication, record the date, time, how many were given, how many are remaining, sign the document, and provide a reason for giving the PRN. The PRN Usage Log is located in front of the current MAR in the client file.
  • Include in progress notes: What was given, the time it was given, why it was given and include if it was effective.
  • PRN’s that are used to support behaviour management and sleep, require a medication incident report to be completed (Do we do this??)

The documentation must include:

  • Name of the medication, dose given and time
  • Reason given: Describe exactly what the client tells you or what you see. Report your observations. Documenting “given PRN” is not sufficient.
  • Was the PRN effective or not?
  • Was there a change in the client’s displays? What did you observe?

Below is an example of a PRN Usage Log.
The PRN log can be useful in appointments with doctors. They will review PRN usage and decide if any changes need to be made in the client’s prescription medications or if it should stay the same. The doctor will review regularly scheduled medication and need for PRN medications.

  • All PRNs need to be accounted for except those that can’t be measured like creams, eye drops or powders.