• nurse prescriber;
  • family planning;
  • occupational profile;
  • training needs

The occupational profile and associated training needs of the nurse prescriber: an empirical study of family planning nurses

Rationale, aims and objectives. The issue of nurse prescribing is highly topical, with various United Kingdom Government directives recommending this extension to the nursing role. However, despite an imperative to provide 23 000 nurse prescribers by March 2001 and to expand this function to half the nursing workforce by 2004, there is as yet no agreement as to the occupational profile of the nurse prescriber, nor the level and content of any pre-requisite educational programme. This study was an attempt to address these unresolved aspects with family planning nurses.

Method. A psychometrically valid and reliable training needs analysis instrument was distributed to 1142 family planning nurses, of which 388 were returned. This instrument required the respondents to assess 40 core clinical tasks according to three criteria: how critical each task was both to their current role as family planning nurses and to the role of the family planning nurse prescriber, and how well each was performed. Comparisons of the ratings provided an indicative profile of the role of the family planning nurse prescriber and a prioritized list of training needs to achieve this status.

Results. Generally, and unsurprisingly, the nurse prescribing role was defined primarily in terms of prescribing functions, although advanced professional issues, communication, teamwork and business/administration were also deemed to be salient. Research was not identified as being important. However, with regard to the top 15 training needs, seven research tasks were recorded, with the remainder including advanced clinical activities, applied pharmacology, administration and technical activities.

Conclusion. This study offers a role definition of the nurse prescriber in family planning, and an indicative curriculum for cognate educational programmes.