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Keywords:

  • advanced practice;
  • communication;
  • empirical research report;
  • interviews;
  • nurse prescribing;
  • nurse–physician relationships;
  • professional development

Abstract

Title. Impact of nurse prescribing: a qualitative study

Aim.  This paper is a report of an investigation of the impact of prescribing on a group of recently qualified nurse prescribers in the United Kingdom.

Background.  The creation of advanced nursing roles, and specific skills such as nurse prescribing, has resulted in nurses taking on roles that have traditionally been associated with doctors. The non-doctor prescribing initiative is continually developing and many nurses are now able to prescribe independently from almost the same range of medicines as doctors. Despite the advantages that appear to stem from nurses prescribing, some nurse researchers have been cautious about the impact that prescribing may have on the nursing profession.

Method.  Interviews were conducted during 2005 and 2006 with 45 nurse prescribers. All nurses had successfully qualified and registered as prescribers. Interviews were analysed thematically in line with the principles of grounded theory.

Findings.  Prescribing allows nurses to overcome difficulties in the healthcare system that previously delayed patients’ access to medicines. Prescribing is viewed as more than an ‘add on’ to current roles, it complements many aspects of nursing and integrates previously diffuse aspects of the nursing role. This enables nurses to adopt a more holistic approach to patient care and prescribing. Prescribing has the potential to increase job satisfaction and autonomous working, with the result that nurses are more likely to involve patients in decision-making about their care.

Conclusions.  Prescribing enhances nurses’ knowledge about medication and increases their confidence to engage in prescribing decisions across the healthcare team. Nurse prescribing has the potential to improve service-user care, enhance collaboration and widen discussions about medicines. However, team members need to be prepared for the impact nurse prescribing could have on the dynamics of the multidisciplinary team. Preparatory information about nurse prescribing should be provided to all team members by trainee nurse prescribers. Information could include details about the proposed scope of future prescribing roles, allowing team members to consider how their roles could develop.