What Travel Nurses Need to Know About Prescription Transfers

Written by Rose Torrento on Thursday, November 17, 2022


More than 131 million people in the United States take prescription drugs regularly, which equates to approximately six in 10 people. Although many of us are accustomed to driving to a pharmacy every 30 days to pick up a prescription refill, travel nurses don’t always have that luxury — especially when it comes to prescriptions that are defined as “controlled substances.” These medications come with stipulations about how they’re filled, who can pick them up, and how they’re transferred from pharmacy to pharmacy. For travel nurses who might find themselves relocating every 13 weeks, this presents a big problem.

Controlled substances may have prescription limitations

Many nurses take prescription medications to manage ongoing health problems. Controlled substances are common. For example, consider attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) drugs like Adderall or Vyvanse, anti-anxiety medications like Xanax, or sleep disorder treatments like Ambien. Nurses who are prescribed these medications need to take them on a regular basis. Not taking prescription medication can be dangerous for your health — and can prevent you from caring for your patients properly.

Unfortunately, like most people, nurses might not realize that controlled substances can have tricky restrictions when it comes to filling prescriptions on the go. Many prescriptions are given only in 30-day increments, meaning you’ll need to get a refill once or twice during your assignment, which may not be an option.

Restrictions on prescriptions vary

Controlled substances are restricted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and are often difficult to obtain outside your home state. Some pharmacies won’t allow transfers of controlled prescriptions at all or will allow a transfer only once. Other pharmacies won’t fill controlled substance prescriptions from healthcare providers located out of state. To further complicate the situation, controlled substances may not be allowed to be available via mail either.

These problems can cause frustrating and dangerous situations for travel nurses. If you take a prescription medication, you need to be aware of the limitations on the drug when traveling.


How to ensure you get your prescriptions on assignment

Some advanced planning can make it easier to access to your prescriptions while you're traveling out of state. A few things to keep in mind before you hit the road for your next assignment include:

  • Research the restrictions on your medication in the state you’ll be traveling to. Some states and pharmacies have different rules for filling controlled substance medications from an out-of-state healthcare provider. Be sure to ask your provider, insurance company, or pharmacist about how to mitigate prescription issues before you leave.
  • Choose a pharmacy that allows out-of-state transfers for your medication. Set this up before you leave for assignment.
  • Request handwritten and postdated prescriptions from your provider. Many pharmacies will accept the written prescription and call your provider to confirm.
  • If your medication can be mailed, switch to a mail-order pharmacy. Make sure you update your address as you plan your assignment travels.
  • Request a 90-day supply for your medication before your assignment begins, if possible.
  • Plan ahead if your medication requires routine visits between prescriptions. See if telehealth is an acceptable option for your provider, or schedule doctor’s appointments between assignments so you stay up to date.

Traveling while taking medication can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Plan ahead before your next assignment.

Travel nursing is a career that comes with no shortage of questions attached to it — for new and seasoned travelers alike. If you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask your Health Providers Choice recruiter. They’ll have the answers and resources you’re looking for; and if they don’t, they’ll help you get them. Contact us online or call us today at 888-299-9800.

About the Author

Rose Torrento

Rosemarie Torrento has worked in health care for more than 26 years, beginning as a registered nurse in 1988. Early in her nursing career, Torrento worked as a freelance contract nurse before accepting a position in nursing administration. During her 17-year tenure in that role, she oversaw nursing employment and travel nurse contracting at a Level 1 Trauma Hospital in Michigan. Understanding the challenges travel nurses faced, Torrento founded Health Providers Choice Inc. (HPC) in 2003. Through Torrento’s extensive experience and her role as President and CEO, HPC provides travel placement of registered nurses and allied health professionals to hospital systems nationally.