The Revision Guide for Student Nurses (Part I)

Safe Dispensing (Key Notes)


This module has been written in the form of a checklist for easy reference.  

  1. Take down information carefully. You may be acting upon the direct instructions of a veterinary surgeon, or dealing with a request for a repeat prescription from a client either in person, by telephone or by letter. When dealing directly with a client, always ask how the animal is. There is little point re-dispensing medicines that appear to have no beneficial or even adverse effects. If this is the case, the matter must immediately be referred to a veterinary surgeon.
  2. Establish vital details:
    • Client's name and address.
    • Animal name/identification
    • Name of drug to be dispensed.
    • Strength of drug to be dispensed.
    • Quantity of the drug to be supplied
    • Drug dosage.
    • Re-examination date if necessary.
    • Date patient was last examined.
    • Further advice (such as precautionary measures regarding handling of certain preparations)

    It is prudent to keep a record book handy to log requests for repeat prescriptions, especially those taken by phone or in the middle of a busy surgery. Every practice will have their own protocol, but it is wise to advise that clients must give at least 24 hrs notice to give you time to check the request with the veterinary surgeon.
  3. Access the patient's case notes. It may well be that the veterinary surgeon has advised that repeat prescriptions may be dispensed until a certain date upon which the animal will require a further examination. If this is the case, drugs may be dispensed. Otherwise, refer the matter to the relevant vet.
  4. Having established that the prescription may be dispensed, enter details to the patient's records. Also enter any further useful information such as an up to date weight of the animal, increase/decrease in appetite, changes in demeanour etc.
  5. Select the drug, ensuring that the correct strength is chosen.
  6. Choose a suitable container in which to dispense the medicine:
    • Brown plastic bottles with child-proof caps - for loose tablets/capsules/powders.
    • Cardboard cartons - for blister packs and sachets.
    • Coloured fluted bottles - for external preparations such as soaps and shampoos.
  7. Dispense the correct quantity of drug according to the veterinary surgeon's directions. Always handle drugs with clean hands, and wear protective clothing if necessary.
  8. Apply a dispensing label.
    The following MUST be shown:
    • For animal treatment only.
    • Keep out of the reach of children.
    • For external use only - for topical treatments.
    • Name and address of the owner or keeper of the animal.
    • Name and address of the veterinary surgeon.
    • Date of dispensing.
    The following are desirable (but not required by law):
    • Name and strength of the drug.
    • Name of the animal.
    • Directions for use.
    • Warnings and other information related to the drug dispensed.
  9. Store the item appropriately whilst waiting for the client to collect. Most practices have a "dispensing area" where the appropriately packaged and labelled medicines are to be stored for convenience. Remember that controlled drugs should be returned to the locked cupboard, and items requiring refrigeration (such as insulins) should be returned to the fridge until collection.
  10. When dispensing to the client, do ensure that the route of administration, dosage and any further advice is fully explained. The following may be useful:
    • Disposable gloves and masks for hazardous drugs or pregnant clients.
    • Mini sharps pots for needle disposal for diabetics.
    • Clinical waste bags for disposal of cytotoxically contaminated faeces.
    • Pre-printed request form and pre-paid envelope for repeat prescription requests.
    • An information sheet giving full and clear advice of a drug protocol if this is subject to change. A dispensing label offers limited space, so if prolonged or complicated instructions are necessary ensure that full written instructions are given on a separate advice sheet.