If you’ve recently graduated from a nurse practitioner program, you probably can’t wait to start writing prescriptions. This is, after all, one of the factors distinguishing your new career as an NP from your former as a nurse. Prescription writing privileges are a reflection of your new knowledge and what you have worked so hard to achieve as part of advancing your education. And, it is essential for treating many of your patients.
Graduating from a nurse practitioner program and passing the national certification exam doesn’t automatically grant you the ability to sign prescriptions. Yes, these things are likely required by laws in your state, but in order to write prescriptions for many medications (controlled substances) you must obtain approval at the federal level by applying for a DEA number. Let’s take a look at the process of getting a DEA number as a nurse practitioner.
What is a DEA number?
A DEA number is an identifying series of letters and numbers assigned to a healthcare provider by the Drug Enforcement Administration. It consists of 2 letters, 6 numbers, and one ‘check’ digit. The first letter identifies the type of provider, for example ‘M’ for midlevel provider. The second letter is the first letter of the provider’s last name.
Legally, a DEA number is required in order to write prescriptions for controlled substances. The number is also used unofficially as an identifier by other parts of the healthcare system such as pharmacies.
What is the process of applying for a DEA number?
Before applying for a DEA number, you must be licensed to practice in your state of residence. If your application for licensure is still pending, you must wait until the licensing process for your state is complete. Once your NP license is active, you may begin your application. Apply as soon as possible to avoid any delays to your practice.
To apply for a DEA number, visit the Drug Enforcement Administration website to begin your application. Have your social security number, state license information, and credit card handy. The online DEA application has six sections to complete. These sections require information regarding your personal and practice information, business activity and prescribing schedules, state license, background, and payment.
The second section of the DEA number application inquires as to which schedules of drugs you plan to prescribe. If your state places limitations on which medication schedules nurse practitioners are permitted to prescribe, make sure to choose only those schedules that are within the scope of practice for your state. For example, nurse practitioners practicing in Georgia may not prescribe schedule II controlled substances. So, an NP in Georgia applying for a DEA number should indicate he/she plans to prescribe only schedule III, IV, and V medications on the DEA number application.
How much does a DEA number cost?
The Drug Enforcement Administration has recently raised the price of obtaining a DEA number. For nurse practitioners, a DEA number now costs $731 for a three-year period.
The cost of a DEA number can be a hefty burden for a new grad to bear. Fortunately, many employers offer assistance in paying for licensing costs and other related expenses such as obtaining a DEA number. If you have a job lined up, review your contract to see if the cost of obtaining your DEA number will be reimbursed by your employer. If you have yet to find a job working as an NP, make sure to negotiate an allowance to cover the cost of licensing and certification in your contract.
How long does it take to get a DEA number?
Completing the application for a DEA number itself takes just 20 to 30 minutes. The waiting period to receive your DEA number is about four to six weeks. For DEA number renewals, the waiting period is about four weeks.
For most nurse practitioners, acquiring a DEA number will be essential to your practice. If you have recently graduated from an NP program, start the process as soon as possible to avoid a delay in starting your new career.
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