What does PRN mean? Thorough Answer(s)

What does PRN mean

PRN is a Latin term (or more accurately, Latin abbreviation) that is often used as a medical jargon. It is a very common misconception even among medical workers that PRN is an abbreviation for “Patients Report Need”.

Although this is actually close to the practical meaning, this meaning is technically incorrect.

Below, we will discuss the technical meaning of PRN, its usage in various settings, and other important questions. Other than that you get to know what does PRN mean in nursing or in pharmacy.

Without further ado, let us begin.

What does PRN stand for?

PRN abbreviates the Latin phrase: “Pro Re Nata” which can be translated into English as “as matters stand”, “as necessary” or “as needed”. PRN is a medical jargon used in healthcare and medical settings, but the functional meaning can vary depending on the context in which the term is used, which we will discuss below.

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What does PRN mean …

Next up, you’ll get more detailed answers to the questions like “What does PRN mean in Medical terms?” or “What does PRN mean on a Prescription?“.

in Medical terms

In medical terms, PRN always means “Pro Re Nata” or “as the thing is needed”.

However, the functional meaning of the term PRN might change depending on the context of how the term is used.

It is very important to understand that PRN or as needed doesn’t necessarily mean “up to you” or “up to the patient”, but in most cases will mean “according to the person’s (mainly patient’s) specific need” and in the case of medication/prescription, it should exceed the maximum dosage. We will discuss this again further below.

That’s all about medical terms. But what does PRN mean on a Prescription? Keep on reading to find out.

on a Prescription

What does PRN mean on a prescription

If a medication is written as “PRN” on a prescription, it simply means that the medication is only used when it’s needed for a specific situation. For example, allergic medications should only be used when there is any allergic symptom.

As we have briefly discussed above, a common misconception is to think that PRN means “Patient Report Need”, which is technically quite close to the functional meaning when PRN is found on a prescription.

The “PRN” prescriptions will be then given into a pharmacist, which will then provide a clearer, more specific instruction for the patient (more on this below).

When your doctor or a nurse practitioner prescribes you with a PRN prescription, you might want to consider the following:

  • Your doctor should know everything about your medical history. This should include past allergic reactions to medications even if it’s a minor one (rash, indigestion, dizziness, and so on).
  • Let your doctor know about any over-the-counter (OTC) medications you are currently taking. Give as complete information as you can like the dosage, frequency, specific brand, and your reason. The OTC medication might “clash” with your new as-needed medication.
  • Let your doctor know about any vitamins and supplements you take (including herbs and other forms). Some supplements might react with certain medications.
  • Get accurate information about the name of the PRN medication that is going to be prescribed.
  • Discuss the actual use of the medication: correct dose, how often it should be taken, what to do if we miss a dose, possible interactions to other medications, possible side effects, can it be taken with coffee or alcohol and so on. When and in which scenario you should make a visit to the doctor.
  • If necessary, ask your doctor for written information about the medication that is going to be prescribed.

in Medicine

PRN medicines are significantly different compared to medications that come with specific instructions, for example, “two times a day”, “1 tablet every 8 hours”, or other similar instructions.

For instance, there are certain health conditions of which symptoms might not show every day like diabetes or high blood pressure, but the medications for these conditions are only effective when they are taken daily.

With that being said, when your pharmacist received a “PRN” prescription from your doctor, they should provide you with clear instructions about how and when you should take the medication, including but not limited to:

  • When to take the PRN medication. For example, if it’s for anti-vomiting pills, then you might only need to take the pill when you vomit and/or feeling nauseous.
  • The maximum amount of medicine you can take. For example, you can only take no more than five doses a day, and if the symptoms don’t go away, you should call your doctor immediately.
  • What order to take the medications. For example, a PRN medication might be added to another prescription medication. Then you should be given an instruction of what order to take these in.
  • How long to wait between doses. Pretty self-explanatory, if you’ve taken the as-needed medication but the symptom doesn’t go away, how long you should wait before you can take another dose.

in Nursing

What does PRN mean in Nursing

In medical terms, PRN can be used by healthcare employers and professionals to describe short-term, part-term, contract-based, or fill-in temporary work by a health professional, commonly registered nurses.

In this usage, PRN is used similarly to “working pool” or “per diem” (for each day, in a financial context).

So, PRN jobs are the backup group of technicians, nurses, or other supporting medical personnel who can be asked to come in as needed (PRN). Hospitals can’t just close their doors anytime they are lacking regular staffers, for example, if they get sick.

PRN workers are also often called when there’s a sudden rush of patients for one reason or another.

PRN jobs typically require a commitment of a certain number of hours per month, and typically most hospitals offer PRN work opportunities in any medical-related field.

in Pharmacy

What does PRN mean in pharmacy

In pharmacy, the term “PRN” can mean two different things based on the context. Pharmacists obviously are dealing with medications and prescriptions, so the term “PRN” here will mean “as-needed” as we have discussed above.

PRN, along with other prescription abbreviations, however, can be a common source of confusion for pharmacists and other healthcare providers.

As we have also discussed above, it is also the job of pharmacists to provide clear instructions to the patient when they received a PRN prescription.

However, the term “PRN” can also mean a work status (see the “In Nursing?” section above). For instance, there might be a PRN pharmacist and/or a PRN pharmacy technician in a pharmacy or hospital.

FAQs related to “What does PRN mean?”

Below are some of the frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to the definition of PRN and how it might fit into a certain context.

What does PRN mean in physical therapy?

A PRN physical therapist — similar to a PRN nurse or PRN pharmacist — is usually a physical therapist who works on a per diem (for each day) basis. The term PRN here is still an abbreviation for “Pro Re Nata” as we have discussed several times above.

A PRN physical therapist may work when a health facility (hospital) is in need of an extra physical therapist to handle their patient load (or when the regular physical therapist staff get sick or take a day off). Essentially a PRN physical therapist has similar job skills, duties, and responsibilities as a regular, full-time physical therapist.

What does PRN mean in Healthcare?

What does PRN stand for

PRN is an abbreviation of “Pro Re Nata” with the English translation of “as the thing is needed” or simply “as needed”. In the healthcare industry, generally, there are two different contexts in which the term PRN is used:

For medications (or prescriptions): PRN is used to say that the medication should be taken as needed, for example, if a specific symptom is shown or after the patient has taken another medication (i.e. anti-vomiting drug to be taken with another drug that might induce nausea).

For healthcare workforce: the term PRN is used to describe healthcare professionals that are part of an on-call pool of healthcare workers who work “as needed”. For example, a PRN nursing staff may only come to work when the regular nursing staff takes a day off or gets sick. There are usually PRN positions in all medical-related fields: registered or neonatal nurses, physical therapists, lab workers, technicians, pharmacists, and other medical roles.

So, if you stumble upon the term “PRN” in a healthcare setting, it is important to understand which of the two contexts you are faced with, although functionally the two meanings are still quite similar to each other.

Why does PRN mean as needed?

Pro Re Nata (PRN) is actually a Latin term that can be translated into several different English terms, but most often “as needed” or “as the thing is needed“.

We frequently use this “as needed” terminology to describe medicine instructions. For example, in a hospital in-patient setting, nurses can daily hand out PRN medications for various reasons.

Commonly, registered nurses can use their clinical assessment to hand out PRN medications based on various subjective and objective information like the patient’s medical history, current symptom, whether a doctor is available for consultation, and so on.

As also have discussed above, PRN can also be used on a prescription or to describe a specific type of healthcare workforce. In this case, medication can be taken “as needed” if it is written as PRN, and a PRN medical specialist should only come to work “as needed”.

So as we can see, “as needed” is simply the closest English term (function-wise) we can use to translate Pro Re Nata.

Now you know what does PRN mean in Medical terms or in Nursing.

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About Ida Koivisto, BSN, RN, PHN

Ida is both a registered nurse and public health nurse. Her passion is to provide as much valuable information about nursing to the world as possible. In her spare time from work and blogging, Ida loves to work out at the gym and spend time with relatives.